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IIMIIIMMIMIMIMIMIMIMIMHIMI 
II g 

I Harvard College | 

Library 

1 
1 




FROM THE BEeUEST OF 

SUSAN GREENE DEXTER 



Si 



HEUOGABALUS 



OF THIS BOOK TWO THOUSAND COPIES HAVE BEEN 
PRINTED FROM TYPE AND THE TYPE DISTRIBUTED. 

THIS IS NUMBER 



HELIOGABALUS 

A BUFFOONERY IN THREE ACTS 

by H. L. MENOCEN and 
GEORGE JEAN NATHAN 




NEW YORK ALFRED • A • KNOPF mcmxx 






^ COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY 

H. L. MENCKEN and 
GEORGE JEAN NATHAN 

All righto reserved, including that of translation into foreign 
languages, including the Scandinavian. 



HARVARD^ 
UNIVERSITY) V ■ -r- i 
LIBP^RY O.CC</ A — 4 
MAR 14 194iy 

In ito present form this play is dedicated to the reading 
public only, and no performances of it may be given without 
the permission of the authors who may be addressed in care of 
the publisher. Any piracy or infringement will be prosecuted in 
accordance with the penalties provided by the United States 
Statutes: — 

Sec 4966. — Any person publicly performing or representing 
any dramatic or musical composition, for which copyright has 
been obtained, without the consent of the proprietor of the said 
dramatic or musical composition, or his heirs or assigns, shall be 
liable for damages therefor, such damages in all cases to be 
assessed at such sum, not less than one hundred dollars for the 
first and fifty dollars for every subsequent performance, as to the 
Court shall appear to be just. If the unlawful performance and 
representation be wilful and for profit, such person or persons 
shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction be im- 
prisoned for a period not exceeding one year. — U. S. Revised 
Sututes, Title 60, Chap. 3. 



PBINTSD TJSf THS UNITKD STATU OF AHBBXOA 









•' '> 



DRAMATIS PERSONS 



VARIUS AVITUS BASSIANUS 


HELIOGABALUS: 


Emperor of Rome. 


PAULA: 


His senior wife. 


ANNIA FAUSTINA: 




CAELESTIS: 




AQUILU severa: 


- Junior wives. 


ALINU: 




DACU: 




* 

LUCIA THE GALATIAN: 


A Christian maiden. 


SIMON OF cappadocu: 


A Christian clergyman. 


CAIUS MACRINUS: 


Commander of the West 




em fleet. 


POLORUS: 


A physician. 


Piso: 


A physician. 


BUFINIUS: 


Major-domo to helio 




GABALUS. 


HECATUS: 


A Greek. 


CORNELU METELLi: 


A public woman. 


LUCIUS MACEDONICUS: 


A pickpocket. 



Army Officers, Imperial Guards, Additional Wives of 
the Emperor, Dtmcing Girls, Slaves, etc. 



ACT I : The atrium in the imperial palace. The 

night before New Year's Day, A.D. 221. 

ACT II: The imperial bed-dhamber. Toward the 

middle of the year 221. 

ACT III : Antechamber and banquet hall in the pal- 
ace. The evening of the following day. 



ACT I 



ACT I 

The atrium in the imperial palace on the Palatine 
Hill. A splendid and even gorgeous apartment^ per^ 
haps fifty feet long and twenty broad. The spectator 
views it from one side, and one of the longitudinal 
walls thus constitutes the background. At the left of 
the spectator is the arched doorway that leads into the 
ostium, or entrance hallway. At the right are two 
doors giving into the peristyle, or garden. In the 
hack are doors opening upon various apartments, 
among them, a small triclinium or banquet-room. 

The atrium has walls of Cipilino marble, and there 
are ornate pillars supporting each door-frame. In 
the centre of the floor is a small pool, perhaps six by 
eight feet, and flush with the floor. Above it, in the 
ceiling, is a skylight with movable bronze sashes, and 
gaudy silk blinds beneath. Despite the architectural 
magnificence of the apartment, its furniture, to mod- 
em eyes, seems meagre. To the spectators right, be- 
tween the garden doors, there is a solium — a high, 
stiff, ungainly chair, very wide, and upholstered in 
imperial purple, i.e., a colour rather like the crimson 
of today. In front of the solium stands a very ornate 
mensa, or table, with a few backless stools. There is 

nothing more. Light is furnished by Roman lamps 

11 



12 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

on very tall candelabra. The moon filters through 
the skylight. 

It is the night before New Yearns Day of the year 
221 A.D. 

As the curtain rises, heliogabalus' atriensis, or 
major-domo J rufinius by name, ushers in the two phy* 
sicianSj Piso and polorus. rufinius is a stout Gaul 
with a full red beard. He wears, of course, no toga, 
but there are chevrons of imperial purple on the short 
left sleeve of his tunic, piso and polorus wear the 
paenula — a long, plain cape, with a hood not unlike 
a monk*s cowl, piso's paenula is black, but po- 
lorus' shows the florid colours of a modem bath- 
robe. PISO is an old man and wears a long white 
beard; polorus is younger and wears his clipped, al- 
most in the Van Dyke manner. 

RUFINIUS, as soon as the two doctors have come to 
anchor by the pool, offers them a salver on which 
sUmd two goblets of wine and a dish of peanuts. 

RUFINIUS 

The Emperor will be out presently. The banquet 
is just ending. 

[From within comes the sound of half-hearted 
mirth.^ 

piso 
[Reaching for one of the goblets^ Very thought- 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 13 

ful of you, Rufinius: I need it I was up all night 
with a confinement case. 



POLORUS 

[Somewhat sniffishlyl Yes, my dear Doctor Piso, 
they are very tiresome. Fm glad I've been able to 
give them up. 

PISO 

[Waspishly] Give them up? /, Doctor Polorus, 
I never give them up! I pull them through. 

POLORUS 

[Rather floored; apologetically] I don't mean 
patients; I mean cases. 

PISO 

[Put into good humour by the success of his re- 
partee] But / mean neither patients nor cases; I 
mean husbands. 

POLORUS 

[Amiably, trying to make peace] I suppose he 
was drunk, as usual. 

PISO 

Drunk? His very tears smelt like toddy. You 
could scarcely call him a husband in alcohol. He was 
an alcoholic extranet of husband. 



HELIOGABALUS 



[Act I 



POLORUS 
It's astounding how much they get down when such 



things are going on in the house. 



Yes, and the tighter they get, the more they want to 
kiss the baby. And if you let them do it, then you 
have two cases of delirium tremens on your hands — 
father and child. And the mother raising hell. 

[Sounds of feeble, somewhat laborious mirth cojne 
from the banquet-room^ 

POLORUS 
What do you think of — ? [Nodding toward the 
banquet-roorti] 

[piso takes a handful of peanuts and munches 
them during the following, now and then biting 
into a bad one and spitting it into the pool] 



What is your idea? 



POLORUS 

It looks simple. I say diabetes. 



Why? 

POLORUS 
Well, for one thing, he's always so thirsty. Then, 
his legs are beginning to trouble him. Thirdly — 



Act I] HELIO GABALUS 15 

PISO 

Nonsense! He was bom vrith that thirst. As for 
his legs, they are simply overworked. The human 
leg was designed to carry a man, and nothing more. 
Add his clothes, his conscience, his artillery, and his 
jewelry, and then pile on a barrel of wine or so every 
day, and it begins to lose confidence in itself. 

POLORUS 

The Empress Paula tells me — 

PISO 

Yes, I know all about the patent medicines he's 
swallowed and the quacks he's had here. There was 
that Syrian, for instance. He prescribed water- 
drinking. . 

POLORUS 

She says he couldn't keep it on his stomach. 

PISO 

No wonder! I daresay his stomach wondered what 
it was. 

POLORUS 

What do you think of proposing? 

PISO 

Nothing could be simpler. If this were an ordi- 
nary man, say you or that fat poinsettia over there, 
[indicating rufinius] I'd simply put him to bed, give 
him a good big dose of castor oil, and then send in 



16 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

my bill. Maybe I'd add a mustard plaster, and a 
gargle in the morning. The next day, repeat the 
dose. And so on. 

PISO 

[Uneasily] But surely you're not going to — ? 

POLORUS 

[Horrified] What! Prescribe castor oil for an 
emperor? The gods forbid! Where are your pro- 
fessional ethics? Besides, I've been in jail, and don't 
like it. And when I think of lions in the arena gum- 
ming this old epidermis—! 

[Paula enters from the peristyle, and the two phy- 
sicians, catching sight of her at once, make low 
bows] 

PISO AND POLORUS 

Majesty! 

PAULA 

[To PISO, gushingly] Oh, doctor, I am so glad to 
see you! I have been so worried! 

PISO 

[In his best manner] Be calm! This — [indU 
eating POLORUs] is Dr. Polorus, my — [maliciously] 
assistant. Doctor, you are honoured by the notice of 
the Empress Paula. 

PAULA 

[Buttonholing Piso tragically] I surely hope you 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 17 

gentlemen can do something for the poor Emperor. 
You can't imagine what I have gone through. I think 
he's getting worse all the time. And those awful 
quacks he has had! 

PISO 

Yes, I have heard. It's common gossip. 

PAULA 

One of them put him on water! Like a horse! 
[It gradually becomes evident that paula, who is 
about 37 and rather chunky j is somewhat alcoholized 
and inclined to weep] I thought he would die the 
first night. I was up the whole night. I wouldn't 
let any of the other ladies touch him. I su£Fered ter- 
ribly. 

[Succumbing to the martyr complex, she sobs 
boozily on Piso's shoulder] 

PISO 

[With professional tact] And what seemed to be 
the symptoms? 

PAULA 

Just grief, I guess. The love of a pure woman. I 
still feel very faint. 

POLORUS 

Perhaps a goblet of wine — 

PAULA 

[Promptly motioning to RUFiNros] And you, too. 



18 HELIOGABALUS [ActI 

Pardon me for forgetting. I am all worn out. 
doctors have to be up all night, and — 



PISO 
[Reaching for his goblet^ People simply will 
send for one. I seldom get out of my clothes. 
[The three drink] 



And you were saying that the Emperor- 



I 



PAULA 

Doctor, you'd hardly believe it. He's so changed 
I hardly know him — always complaining about his 
stomach-aches, and taking pills and things. You 
know how lively he used to be — always up to some 
pleasantry. Why, even when we had a quiet dinner 
here at home — ^just him and me and the other girls — 
he'd have in one of those dancers from Mesopotamia, 
and make him dance on a red-hot stove. Always 
something jolly. And how he would laugh and cut 
up! But now look at him! Even this New Year's 
Eve banquet is like a funeral. Think of it! He 
wouldn't lei me go to it — and I've been sitting beside 
him at banquets for — well, ever since I was almost 
a child. And all the other girls barred out, too — -_ 
all except Dacia. 

PISO 
[Professionally] Too bad, too had! 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 19 

PAULA 

I say nothing against Dacia — ^not a word. She is a 
very nice girl. I was glad to see him marry her — 
that is, if he had to marry anybody. I thought he 
had vrives enough. You can imagine what trouble it 
makes for me. But you don't want to hear my af- 
flictions. 

POLORUS 

Your Majesty was saying that the Emperor is de- 
pressed. 

PAULA 

Depressed? You'd think he had on damp under- 
clothes! And he keeps on sending for those quacks 
— even those crazy dervishes and religious healers 
from Asia. 

PISO 

Religion? Aha! Mental symptoms! 

PAULA 

Why, yesterday I hear he actually had in one of 
those awful Jews — Christians, some of them now call 
diemselves — the kind they bum at the circus. 

PISO 

RiflF-raflF! They actually say they can cure a sick 
man without medicine. [To polorus] Your par- 
don. Doctor. 

POLORUS 

No offence at all, I assure you. My family is from 



20 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

Spain — ^Mendoza was the family name. I loathe 
these kikes as much as you do. 

PAULA 

[Continuingi So I sent for you doctors. I hear 
you do wonders. But you must be careful. No feel- 
ing of pulses or sticking out of tongues. Just say 
you have heard he is feeling poorly, and have dropped 
in as a matter of patriotism. Don't tell him I sent 
for you. He'll be here in a few moments, as soon as 
the banquet [she sniffs sarcastictdly] is over. You'll 
see how sick he is the moment he comes in. 

POLORUS 

And as for the symptoms. Majesty: you say he 
complains of — 

[His speech is cut short by the entrance of a guest 
who comes from the triclinium supported by two 
slaves. He is very drunk and they drop him 
beside the pool and proceed to bathe his face] 

PAULA 

Oh, the poor man! Something has disagreed with 
him. 

PISO 

Who is the gentleman? 

PAULA 

I don't know him. I think he is one of the generals 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 21 

from the colonies. [To one of the slaves] Who is 
he? 

THE SLAVE 

Caius Macrinus, Majesty. Commander of die 
Western Fleet. 

PISO 

Ah, a naval officer! [To the slave] Is he taken 
this way often? 

THE SLAVE 

[Idiotically] Only when he drinks. 

POLORUS 

I think it may be fits. Let's take a look at him, 

PAULA 

Shall I order some wine? 

PISO 

No. That is, not for the patient. 

[As RUFiNius makes for the goblets, Piso and 
POLORUS approach CAius and shoulder the slaves 
away, caius collapses at the edge of the pool, 
and before piso, who is aged and stiff, can grab 
his end, slides into the water, and out of PO- 
LORUs's hands. The slaves jump in after him 
and drag him ashore, and the two doctors pro- 
ceed to revive him] 

POLORUS 

Grab his arm and pump it up and down! 



22 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

PISO 

What do you take me for, a milk-maid? I am a 
physician! 

POLORUS 

I thought we'd try some artificial respiration. 

PISO 

Artificial respiration your grandmother! Slap him 
on the back: that'll fetch him. 

POLORUS 

Yes, and give him pneumonia. 

PISO I 

Pneumonia, flapdoodle! A drunken man never 
gets pneumonia! 

POLORUS I 

Since when? 

PISO 

Since the time of Romulus and Remus. 

POLORUS 

Well, / have seen it. 

PISO 

You thought you saw it. The patient probably had 
cholera. Or maybe a fractured skull. 

POLORUS ' 

[Sarcastically] Palm-reader ! 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 23 

PISO 

[Wuh equal sarcasm] Barber! 

PAULA 

[Brightly] Why not roll him on a barrel? 

POLORUS 

Too late! He's getting over it. Besides, [mdU 
eating the banquet room] what barrels there are, are 
in there. 

[CAius sits up and gazes about him weakly. Catch- 
ing sight of PAULA, he waves his hand at her 
feebly. He has forgotten where he is, and 
doesn^t know that she is the Empress] 

CAIUS 

[Thickly] Ah there, fair one! How about a lit- 
tle drink! 

PISO 

[Horrified] Sacrilege! 

PAULA 

[Flattered by his apparent admiration] Oh, let 
the poor commander alone. He's feeling badly. 
[She approaches him, with a goblet] There, that 
will make you better. 

CAIUS 

I remember you, little peppermint, but I can't place 
you. Didn't we meet in — ^Alexandria? 



24 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

PAULA 

[Sympathetically] Oh, don't worry your poor 
head. 

CAIUS 

It doesn't worry me. I remember you now. 
What's become of that little dark girl? 

PISO 

[In alarm] The G)mmander seems to be flighty. 
He imagines he's in a — er, a private house. 

RUFINIUS 

[Taking charge of the situation] I'd better help 
him out. 

[He grabs CAius, and with the two slaves, begins 
leading him out] 

CAIUS 

[Drunkenly] But I haven't paid for the drink! 
Let me pay for the drink! I insist upon paying for 
the drink! I — 

[Exeunt] 

POLORUS 

Delirium! 

PAULA 

[Virtuously] I can't imagine what he was talking 
about. 

PISO 

Oh, I have seen thousands of such cases. Most 
doctors make the mistake of — 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 25 

l^He is cut short by an uproar in the triclinium. 
Trumpets sound. Suddenly three slaves appear 
at the door, crying "The Emperor!" paula at 
once prepares to depart] 

PAULA 

[To the doctors] Remember. Very careful! 
Don't ask him to stick out his tongue! 

[As PAULA slinks into the peristyle, heliogabalus 
enters from the triclinium, with dacia on his arm. 
He is tall, sallow and apparently somewhat liq- 
uored; his bad humour is obvious. He stalks 
across the stage to the solium without a word, 
hands up dacia, and takes his seat beside her with 
a scowl. He wears a magnificent toga of impe- 
rial purple, with a wide band of cloth-of-gold at 
the bottom. He carries a small baton, with a gi- 
gantic ruby at one end. He is bareheaded 

[dacia is a very pretty blonde of, say, nineteen. 
It is plain that she admires heliogabalus vastly, 
but there is a touch of awe in her admiration, and 
it gives her a bit of stage-fright to be with hinu 
as here. She is dressed in the white garment of 
a Roman matron 

[Following the two come several slaves, and two or 
three army officers. The latter have been guests 
at the banquet and are more or less tight 

[heliogabalus, seated upon the solium, claps his 
hand to his tummy and turns to dacia] 



6 HELI0GABALU5 [Act I 

HELIOGABALUS 

There it is again — that grinding pain. 



I'm so sorry, dear. Shall I send for something? '^B 

HELIOGABALUS 

The oysler-soup, I dessay, [dacu pats his arm] 
Or the speeches. 

[He dismisses the subject and sweeps the atrium 
with his eye. It alights upon the two doctors, 
who immediately drop to their knees] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Irascibly] So there you are! Get up! [^They 
arise] Well, what are you doing in the Night Court? 

PISO 
May it please your Majesty, the thought occurred 
to us that it would be a favourable moment for — pay- 
ing our' respects. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Aha, the crows smell the carrion! So you heard 
that I was ill? 

PISO 

Not exactly ill. Majesty, but — well, one might say 
slightly indisposed. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Indisposed? A sweet word. Then a man who has 
had his head cut off ia suffering from tonsilitis. [Hy- 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 27 

pochondriacly] I tell you my stomach has all gone 
to pieces. I can hardly digest the blush on a peach. 

PISO 

Your Majesty describes the symptoms very trench- 
antly. Half the doctor's work is done for him. 

HEUOGABALUS 

I havenH mentioned a damned symptom, you scurvy 
old body-snatcher. If I began to tell you all my 
symptoms Fd talk your ear off. 

POLORUS 

Perhaps your Majesty will favour us with, say a 
specimen or two. 

HEUOGABALUS 

[He hesitates, but finally thinks well of the sugges- 
tion] Well, if you are interested • • • • For exam- 
ple, what would you say of a sort of peculiar buzzing 
sensation at the pit of the stomach, an hour after 
meals? [He makes elaborate circular motions with 
his fi^st] And then a sour head-ache, with peculiar 
flashes of light before the eyes? Sometimes white; 
sometimes red; sometimes a sort of greenish purple, 
or pinkish yellow, or bluish — 

[He halts lugubriously] 

POLORUS 

[Judicially and with a profound froum] I should 
caU it hyperacidity. 



28 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

PISO 

[Derisively] What! Hyperacidity? Then 
where is your heart-bum? 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Interrupting'] Sir, I said nothing of any heart- 
bum. 

PISO 

Precisely. My leamed friend here simply — 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Petulantly] See here, who's sick, you or I? I 
tell you about stomach-ache, and you begin talking of 
heart-bum. 

POLORUS 

[Virtuously] I didn't mention it. Majesty. 

HELIOGABALUS 

And it's lucky for you that you didn't mention it. 
Majesty! What is your guess? 

POLORUS 

/ say hyperacidity. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Yes, that was your first guess. Now what is your 
second? 

POLORUS 

Cholelithiasis. 

HELIOGABALUS 

And then? What is number three? 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 29 

POLORUS 

Nervous dyspepsia. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[In a sepulchral voice, gradually working himself 
into a rage} And which one do you favour for the 
death-certificate? 

POLORUS 

[Horrified] Surely Your Majesty is joking! 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Now thoroughly enraged, he leaps down from the 
solium and proceeds toward polorus like a lion stalk- 
ing a deer] Joking? Is a coroner's inquest a joke? 
Is an autopsy a joke? [He explodes with wrath and 
bawls for the guard] Out with the jackass! Shove 
him into tier two and fatten him for the leopards! 
Out with him! 

[polorus is hustled out, loudly protesting. Piso 
attempts a discreet sneak, hut heuogabalus de- 
tects it] 

HELIOGABALUS 

Grab the old one ! Duck him in the pool ! 
[The slaves grab poor Piso and throw him in. He 
comes up instantly and tries to scramble out] 

PISO 

[Sputtering] Injustice! Injustice! 



30 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

HELIOCABALUS 

Again! 

[They duck him] 

PISO 
[Coming up againl I confess! Let me out! 
admit everything! 

[The slaves haul him out. He shakes himself like 
a wet dog'\ 

HELIOCABALUS 
Now throw him out. 
[They proceed to do it] 

PISO 

Where is my stethoscope? I lost my stedioscopet 
I want my stetho — 

[Exit] 

DACIA 

[Sive&ly, as heliogabalus returns to the solium 
and wearily reseats himselfl You excite yourself, 
dear. [She caresses him as if he were a troubled 
child, but a bit timorouslyj You should be calmer. 
That old quack isn't worth — 

HELIOCABALUS 
Calm? How can I be calm with that dog-fight going 
on in my tummy? My sweet birdie, you underestimate 
the effects of matter on mind. I ought to have kissed 
you an hour ago. It was my duty. Moreover, I in- 
clined to it — the thought presented itself to me. But 
just then I was seized. I love you — but I am sick. 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 31 

DACIA 

[Sentimentally^ If you love me, I am happy. 

HELIOGABALUS 

So am I — ^theoretically. But this [He rubs 

his front sadly. Then he suddenly pulls himself to- 
gether. To the assemblage'] Let us proceed to busi- 
ness. What is the first case? 

[A slave comes forward with a scroll and writing 
materials and takes his place at the ornate table. 
He is the Clerk of the Night Court. Two armed 
guards stand to either side of him. The follow- 
ing scene is played very quickly] 

THE CLERK 

Hecatus; 27 years old; attempted burglary. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Hecatus? Is he a Greek? 

THE CLERK 

Yes, your Majesty. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Then don't bother to bring him in. Have him 
throvm into the Tiber at once. Next case. 

THE CLERK 

Cornelia Metelli; 20 years old; soliciting. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Bring her in. 



32 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

[The guard hauls in a bedraggled old wench, fully 
45] 

CORNELIA 

[Beginning to protest from the moment she enters 
the door] Your Majesty, I give you my word I never 
done anything whatsoever at all. I was just walking 
down the street, going to meet a friend, when that 
policeman come up and — 

HELIOGABALUS 

Slop lying, my dear. I remember you very well. 
The last time, you held up a drunken pall-bearer on 
his way home from a funeral. 

CORNELIA 

Your Majesty, you have got me mixed up with some 
other lady. I give you my word I never — 

HELIOGABALUS 

Silence! Now let's be friends. How is tra 

CORNEUA 
Your Majesty, you do me wrong, I assure — - 

HELIOGABALUS 

Well, now, are we going to be friends, or do you 
want me to send you up at once? 



CORNEUA 
Don't send me up again! 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 33 

HEUOGABALUS 

Then answer my polite question. I asked you 
''How is trade?" I take it that it's not as good as it 
used to be. [corneua begins to sniffle} I suppose 
the night has to be very dark for you to be — insulted. 
Or the stranger very soused. 

CORNEUA 

A poor girl ain't got a chance, Majesty. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Not after forty-five. Or fifty. [To the assem- 
blage in general] Consider, gentlemen, the sad fate 
of this poor working girl. Think of her days of hope, 
of happiness. Of success. Think of the men she 
has charmed! Think of the old, sad romance of her 
betrayal! I dare say it was some gladiator, or an 
actor. Ah, the misery of the years! And now con- 
template her beauty in its decay: the night must be 
very dark, or the stranger very soused. Observe that 
sepulchral wreck of what once was a human face. 
[CORNELIA sobs] No, my baby, I shall not send you 
up. Instead I am going to do something for you. 
Day chases day: you need a comfortable home. I ap- 
point you a Vestal Virgin. 

CORNEUA 

[In horror] Oh, my God! Oh, your Majesty! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Sheriff, do your duty! [The guard drags her out, 
protesting raucously] Next case! 




34 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

THE CLERK 

Lucius Macedonicus; aged 30; picking pockets. 
IThe prisoner is brought in^ 

HELIOGABALUS 
Guilty or not guilty? 

THE PRISONER 

Not guilty. 

HELIOGABALUS 

That is to say, guilty. 

THE PRISONER 
Believe me, your Majesty, I wouldn't lie 

HELIOGABALUS 
[To the c/er/c] How many terms has he served? 

THE clerk: 
Twenty-seven, your Majesty. 

HELIOGABALUS 

I begin to doubt the eiEcacy of the modem jail 
system. Let me think. [He meditates] The sheriff 
is ordered to take the prisoner to the place of execa- 

lion [The prisoner yells, but is silenced by th^ 

guard, and heliogabalus goes on] and there chop 

off the index finger of his right hand — with one clean 
blow of a well-honed sword — no amateurish butcher- 
ing. 

THE CLERK 

Any further command? 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 35 

HEUOGABALUS 

On his recovery, he is to be given a place on the 
police force. 

THE CLERK 

[In surprise] The police force? 

HEUOGABALUS 

I said the police force. A pickpocket with the 
index finger of his right hand gone is harmless. And 
so is a policeman. Call the next case. 

[The prisoner is hustled out] 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Calling after] Bring me the finger, Sheriff. I 
admire it. [To the Clerk] What is the next case? 

THE CLERK 

Lucia the Galatian, alias Lucia the Christian; aged 
21 ; blasphemy and inciting to riot. One of the soap- 
box cases, your Majesty. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Bring her in. 

[lucia is brought in by the guard. She wears oi 
simple white stola>, the common dress of Roman 
women, with a cross embroidered in front. She 
is very pretty , and heliogabalus shows imme^ 
diate signs that he has duly observed the fact. 
He settles his toga, wets his finger, smoothes his 
eyebrows, and assumes a mixture of amiable 



tf! 



36 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

smile and judicial frown, lucia folds her arms 
and is silent] 

DACIA 

[To HELIOGABALUS] She is very pretty. 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Heavilyl Oh, yes — in a sense. 

DACIA 

It's a pity to see such a pretty girl in the hands of 
the police. 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Grasping at the idea] A pity? It's revolting! 
Darling, it shocks me to expose you to such a spectacle. 
I really can't permit it. My conscience would never 
let up on me. 

DACIA 

But— 

HELIOGABALUS 

Exactly. Wifely duty, and all that. I understand. 
You love me. But I can't permit it, really. More- 
over, it is getting very late. You must have your rest. 
[He rises] My arm. 

DACU 

I am not sleepy at all, dear. 

HELIOGABALUS 

See. It has begun already! Insomnia from late 
hours. That's the way / began. I promised your 
father to take care of you, to cherish you, to 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 37 

DACIA 

But— 

HELIOGABALUS 

I positively refuse to let you sacrifice yourself. I 
hadn't noticed the time. Now, my dear. [He offers 
his arm, and she dutifully takes it, though with obvious 
reluctance. They step down from the solium and pro- 
ceed to the door of the peristyle. At the door'\ You 
have been getting paler and paler for an hour. I 
noticed it hut didn't say anything. Now right to bed, 
my little ginger snap. . Don't forget that Heliogabalus 
loves you. [He gives her a peck of a kiss^ I'll be 
with you anon. 

[She goes out without a word. Immediately the 
door closes behind her, heliogabalus makes his 
way back to the solium with noticeable haste. 
First he takes a precautionary look over his 
shoulder at the door; then he devotes himself to 
a long gaze at lucia] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Geniallyl So this is Lucia! 

LUCU 

[Oratorically'] The peace of the Lord be with you, 
Caesar! I am not afraid. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Well, surely not. I had no thought of harming you, 
my dear. 



38 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

LUCIA 

Ye who live by the sword shall perish by the sword. 
It is so vrritten. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Perhaps you are right But why did you kick up 
this disturbance on the street? 

LUCIA 

I made no disturbance, Caesar. I obeyed the com- 
mand. I preached the Son of God. 

HEUOGABALUS 

God? Which God? 

LUCIA 

The One God. 

HELIOGABALUS 

So there is only one now? I heard the rumour only 
last week. But why get excited about it? Why stir 
up those poor country yokels at the market, and give 
the policemen trouble? 

LUCU 

I came to preach the Word. I came to bring peace. 
Aye, even peace to you, Caesar; — ^with the sin and 
blood upon your hands. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[To the clerk] Mr. Clerk, the defendant is in the 
shadow. Can't we move the lamps ^a bit? 
[ The clerk moves them experimentally] 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 39 

HELIOGABALUS 

So; an inch or so to the left. That's better. [7*0 
lucia] And now, my dear, about this blood upon my 
hands. Surely you have confused me with some one 
else. I am never violent. 

LUCIA 

It was by your decree that they died — burned alive, 
torn to pieces by wild beasts, butchered by gladiators 
— ^five hundred souls. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Oh-h, you mean those — what do you call them? — 
Qiristians! Well, surely you are not complaining of 
that. All that is a mere matter of administrative rou- 
tine. They practise magic; they claim to be able to 
heal the sick, even to raise the dead. The law is the 
law. 

LUCIA 

It is their faith that gives life ; it is their faith that 
heals. And that faith [touching her heart] is here. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[To the clerk] I'll have to trouble you about the 
lights again. Bring that big lamp nearer to the pris- 
oner. The rest of you stand back. 

[The clerk so places the light that lucia's face is in 
the full glare of it. heliogabalus views her 
with obvious and prolonged admiration] 



40 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

HEUOGABALUS 

Thank you ; now I can hear her better. [ To Lucu] 
And you were saying, my dear? 

LUCIA 

[Striking her heart again] My faith is here. The 
truth is here. The power of the spirit is here. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Yes, so far, so good. But surely you don't claim 
to be a magician like those other Qiristians. A 
pretty girl like you! 

LUCIA 

There is no magic! There is only the spirit. 

HELIOGABALUS 

But, my dear! What has the spirit to do with the 
belly-ache? How can the spirit help a man when he 
is doubled up? What could it do for me? 

LUCIA 

Even you, Caesar. Even you are not beyond the 
grace of the Lord. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Growing more interested] Do you mean to say 
that I can be cured by this new magic, this so-called 
Qiristianity? 

LUCIA 

By Qiristianity, Caesar, and by the spirit within. 
Even you may be healed. 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 41 

HEUOGABALUS 

Do you mean without swallowing any more pills? 

LUCIA 

I know nothing of pills. I know only the work of 
the Lord. 

HELIOGABALUS 

But what I am getting at is: what is the machinery 
of it? How do you set the Lord to working? Just 
how do you do it? 

LUCIA 

[Simply] We pray. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Is that all? 

LUCIA 

We lay on hands. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Vastly interested] So! You lay on hands? 
And do you yourself — ^that is to say, are you yourself 
a practitioner of this — ^this — laying on of hands? 

[He leans over to glance cautiously at the door 
through which DACIA has gone] 

LUCIA 

My prayers have been answered. I take no re- 
ward. I would ask the Lord's mercies even for you, 
Cassar. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Well, all I have to say is that you are a very nice 



42 HELIOGABALUS [Act' 

girl. First you accuse me of murdering your friends, 
and now you say you are willing to pray for me, — 
and even to lay on hands. 

LUCIA 

It is the command: forgive those who have 111- 
uaed you. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Oh, I say: now you are going too far. Imagine 
me ill-using you. Sweet piece, you wrong me. 

LUCIA 
[/ra surprise] I am not to be burned? 

HELIOGABALUS 

The idea! Bum you! The very thought of it re- 
volts me. You have been misinformed, my dear. I 
am a very humane man — even a polite man. 

LUCIA 
But— 

HELIOGABALUS 

Yes, I know what you are going to say. Now and 
then I am irritable — and maybe order a man or two, 
or a dozen or so, to the — that is, now and then, I let 
the law take its course. But when a man is in bad 
health — and always has the stomach-ache — he some- 
times gets out of humour. Who wouldn't? You have 
no idea how much I have suffered, and what awful 
medicines I have taken. Not half an hour ago I had 
to have another of those quacks ducked in ihis very 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 43 

room. Well, the Qiristians have this easy cure — 



this way of curing by laying on hands — and yet they 
let me suffer. Is it any wonder that I sometimes lose 
my temper? Now you say that you also know the 
trick, and I was wondering — 

LUCIA. 

I shall pray for you, Caesar. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Yes, by all means. But this laying on of hands — 
I have a notion that it might, er — fd my particular 
case even better. 

LUCIA 

[Diffidently] We could try. 

HELIOGABALUS 

So we could. But not here. I have a feeling that 
a crowd might be — ^well, unsympathetic. [To the 
clerk] The court recesses, Mr. Clerk. Clear the 
room! 

[The guards proceed to drive every one out in head- 
long hastCy leaving only heliogalbus, lucia and 

RUFINIUS] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[To RUFiNius] I shall cross-examine the witness 
in chambers. [To Lucu, offering her his arm] My 
dear. 

[As they go out^ heliogabalus takes another pre- 
cautionary look at the peristyle. They go into 



44 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

one of the rooms at the rear. The door closes. 
HUFiNius, to whom the business is an old story, 
heaves a sigh, pours out two goblets of wine, and 
places them on the small table near the door. 
He then goes to the door of the ostium, and calls 
out to an unseen guard} ^_ 

RUFINIUS ^* 

[In bored tones} Belter get the musicians ready, 
Sampinus. They'll probably be wanted presently. 
Are they all sober? 

[The guard makes no reply, but the clank of his 
sword is heard. As rufinius turns back, paula 
enters from the peristyle. She is somewhat di- 
shevelled] 

PAULA 

The Emperor — where is the Emperor? 



RUFINIUS 

He has just stepped out, Majesty. 

PAULA 

Just stepped out? Where has he gone? 

RUFINIUS 

He hasn't gone anywhere, Majesty. 
PAULA 
) out or he is not out. 



I 



Don't 



Bosh. Either he i 
deceive me! 

[rufinius, .stumped, answers nothing, but his eyes 
PAULA quickly notices'] 



wander to the door. 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 45 

PAULA 

So he's in therCy is he? And who is it this time? 

RUFINIUS 

A young woman. Majesty — ^a young Christian 
woman. 

[There is a loud knock on the inside of the door, 
and RUFINIUS steps to answer. He opens the 
door very slightly and pokes his head iti] 

RUFINIUS 

Majesty? 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Within] Music! 

[rufinius claps his hands, and instantly two musi- 
cians come in from the ostium. One has a 
Greek pipe and the other a lyre. The piper 
blows a loud blast and breaks into lively music. 
Suddenly there are again loud knocks on the in- 
side of the door, and rufinius pokes in his head 
once more] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Within] Not so damned loud! Something soft 
— and dreamy! 

rufinius 
[To the musicians] Turn off the air in that pipe! 
[heliogabalus' order appears ominous to both 
rufinius and paula, and they look at each other] 

PAULA 

This looks serious. 



46 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

RUFINIUS 

I fear so. Majesty. 

PAULA 

You say she is a Christian girl — one of those ex- Jew- 
esses who bawl and beat tambourines on the streets? 
What does she look like? 

RUFINIUS 

I regret to report — 

PAULA 

Speak up! Is she good-looking? 

RUFINIUS 

[Reluctantly] In a sense, yes. 

PAULA 

That means she is very beautiful, doesn't it? Do I 
know any one she looks like? 

RUFINIUS 

[With a heavy attempt at courtliness] Your Ma- 
jesty must consult your mirror. 

PAULA 

Enough of that blather! Do you think that I don't 
know I'm — ^nearly twenty-eight? [With bitterness] 
If I were still what I used to be, I'd be in that room 
myself. 

[Another knock on the inside of the door, rufin- 
lus responds. Unintelligible words from within. 
RUFINIUS tumSf empties the two goblets^ takes an- 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 47 

other flask from the table, and refills them. 
The musicians keep droning softly] 

PAULA 

What is that stuff? 

RUFINTOS 

The wme from Britain, brought to the Emperor by 
Caius Macrinus. 

PAULA 

You mean that stuff that tastes like smoke? Wine 
your grandpa ! So he's going to try that on that poor 
girl! The third degree! 

[rufinius passes in the two goblets] 

RUFINTOS 

It is somewhat heady. 

PAULA 

I should say it is. Why, the first time I tried it my 
head spun around like a ballet girl. Now tell me 
about this girl. Is it just a — ^you know — or is it — ? 

RUFINTOS 

Fm afraid it is. 

PAULA 

Is what? [Maudlinly] Tell me, Rufinius! You 
wouldn't desert me! Tell me the truth! 

RUFINTOS 

I'm afraid it's serious. 



PAULA 

You mean — ? 

RUFINIUS 

Well, he hasn't ordered any guard to take her away 
in the morning. 

PAULA 

[Hysterically] There! I knew it! He'll marry 
her, and then I'll have another on my hands. Eleven 
already — and now one more! I'll go crazy if he 
keeps this up. 

RUFINIUS 

[Reassuringlyl Well, maybe I'm wrong, after all. 
Perhaps he's merely interested in her talk. 

PAULA 

[Inconsolable] Yes, that's the worst of it. If it 
was only her looks I wouldn't care. A man gets his 
fill of looking in no time. But when he begins to 
listen he's lost. [Bursting into tears] I think this is 
too much. I've tried to be a good chief wife to the 
Emperor. Have you ever heard me complain when 
he came home with a girl and — sent for the musi- 
cians? Never! But I'm getting tired of this marry- 
ing. When he marries another one / have her on my 
bands. Who has to keep order among them? Who 
protects them when he gets into a bad humour and 
begins to talk of throwing half a dozen of them to the 
crocodiles? 

[She blubbers] 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 49 

RUFINIUS 

But maybe Your Majesty is too pessimistic. I have 
a feeling that — 

[i4 knock from within the door interrupts ^him. He 
goes to the door and the salver is handed out* 
On it are the two goblets. One is empty; the 
other is still full\ 

PAUIA 

[Rushing up^ she immediately notes the full goblet] 
Ha! One still full! [Hysterically] What did I 
tell you? This one is a wise one: she refuses to 
drink. Now he's done for! 

RUFINIUS 

[Alarmed at hist] It looks pretty bad. 

PAUIA 

Bad? I tell you it's all over! I got him that way 
myself — ^and so did most of the others. I know! 
[Rising to martyrdom] Oh, what have I done to de- 
serve this! And a Christian, too — ^a common street 
woman, praying and bawling in the gutters! Imagine 
the palace with her around! Worse, imagine the Em- 
peror! Here, give me the goblet. I feel faint! 

[She downs the goblet] 

[A commotion inside. A hand on the knob of the 
door] 

RUFINIUS 

[In alarm] Your Majesty had better — 



50 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

PAUIA 

Yes, yes. [Starting off] Let me know what hap- 
pens. 

[She sneaks out just as heuogabalus eniers with 
the girl on his ami] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[To RUFiNius] Kick these vermin out [indicating 
the musicians] They play bawdy music. 
[rufinius kicks them out] 

HEUOGABALUS 

[To Lucu] And now, little dear, as I was 
saying — 

[;His eye suddenly lights on the two goblets^ and he 
notes that the second one has been emptied] 

HELIOGABALUS 

Rufinius! 

RUFINIUS 

Majesty! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Who emptied this goblet? 

RUFINIUS 

[In great confusion] Your Majesty, I assure 
you — 

HELIOGABALUS 

Silence! I don't want to hear any lies from you. 
So you have taken to the jug again — after all your 
promises? While I am hard at work, engaged in the 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 51 

administration of justice — ^labouring at affairs of 
state — ^you loll out here in the atrium in your cups! 

RUFINIUS 

[At a loss] Your Majesty, I — 

HEUOGABALUS 

I have ordered you not to lie! If you tell me that 
it evaporated — in four minutes — to the galleys! If 
you say you gave it to a blind beggar — to the boa con- 
strictors! If you say thieves broke in and stole it — 
I'll bum you like a — ^like a Christian! 

RUFmus 
[Eager to shield the Empress^ he takes the blame. 
He falls to his knees] Majesty! I ask forgiveness! 

HEUOGABALUS 

Ha! You save your life! [Irritably] But this 
sort of thing has got to stop! I can't have drinking 
men about me. [A pause while he meditates] You 
must be punished. You must have your lesson. 
[Another pause] How would you like to lose those 
beautiful pink whiskers? 

RUFINTOS 

[Horror-stricken, he falls flat on the floor] Maj- 
esty! 

HELIOGABALUS 

TTiat's it, exactly. Call in the guard and we'll chop 



52 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

them off at once — and maybe a slice of ear with 
them. 

LUCIA 

[Protesting] I hope your Majesty — 

[She is cut off by the entrance of paula, who 
bounds in from the peristyle, paula, by now^ is 
in the last stages of a crying drunk] 

PAULA 

Stop! 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Startled] What? 

PAULA 

Rufinius is innocent! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Then it was — 

PAULA 

Yes, / drank it. I was feeling faint. I took it — 
medicinally. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Well, it seems to have medicated you, all right. 

PAULA 

I think I had cause to be ill. 

HELIOGABALUS 

What had you been eating? 

PAULA 

Yes, laugh while I suffer! You never think of me! 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 53 

Here am I, so faint I can hardly walk — ^and you give 
banquets, and bring in women off the street, and turn 
the palace into a — 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Sternly] My dear, you talk pish. TTiis lady is 
Lucia. Lucia, the Empress. Lucia was arrested — 
by a grievous error — and brought before me — and we 
have been discussing certain problems — chiefly socio- 
logical. 

PAULA 

Yes, I know what your problems are — ^whether to 
make love to her and fill her with nonsense, or just 
grab her. 

HELIOGABALUS 

My dear, I forbid you. Such talk is libellous, and 
grossly licentious. You will make me believe that 
the wine has — affected you. 

PAULA 

[To lucia] Don't you let him come over you with 
his soft-soap. That man could talk a woman into 
anything. Haven't I seen him do it, with one girl 
after another? He'll make you believe you are 
Venus and then, when you get to be as I am, he'll — 

HELIOGABALUS 

What foolishness, my dear! Imagine this beauti- 
ful, this innocent, girl ever getting like you are! 



54 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

PAULA 

Wasn't I beautiful and innocent once? 

HEUOGABALUS 

Well, maybe once. 

PAULA 

[Maudlin] And when I think of those other poor 
girls. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[To lucia] Unluckily, my sweet Venus, the Em- 
press is not herself. I have noticed it for some time. 
About twenty years. [To paula] Wouldn't it be 
better, darling, if you went to bed? Perhaps a good 
night's rest would help you. Or shall I send for 
Piso? 

PAULA 

Piso? Never! That dirty old fraud — 

HELIOGABALUS 

And yet you sent for him to monkey with my stom- 
ach — my poor, sick stomach! Don't say you didn't. 
I know all about it. By this time, my dear, you 
should have more respect for my spy system. 

PAULA 

That's the way : You always put it on me.' When 
you have done something, you accuse me of some- 
thing. Oh, what — 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Humouring her] But why go into that? You are 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 55 

— ill, and ought to the in bed. And besides, I have 
business. There is, for example, the matter of Ru- 
finius' ear. It had better be attended to at once. 

RUFINIUS 

Oh, Majesty, Majesty! 

PAULA 

Rufinius is innocent. I drank the wine — all of it! 

HELIOGABALUS 

I believe you — ^but nevertheless, Rufinius lied to 
me. Can I afford to let it get about that it is safe to 
lie to the Emperor of Rome? Surely not. Now, go 
to bed and get a good night's rest and let me attend 
to Rufinius' ear. He is tired of waiting. The longer 
we put off the matter of his ear, the longer it will take 
to heal. 

[Taking her arm he pushes her out^ 

PAULA 

[Going out blubbering] What have I ever done to 
deserve such awful, such cruel, such — 
[She disappears] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[To rufinius] Now get the guard, and bring in 
the tools. It'll be all over in a few minutes. 

RUFINIUS 

[Screeching] Pardon, Majesty, pardon! I — 



56 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

HEUOGABALUS 

Silence! I have already pardoned you. This 
other business is a mere reminder, a souvenir. Go 
get the guard. I am busy. 

[rufinius staggers to his feet, and starts slowly to- 
ward the ostium] 

LUCU 

But surely, your Majesty, you are not — 

HELIOGABALUS 

It won't take three minutes, I assure you. FU do 
it myself — ^and I have a steady hand. TTien we can 
resume our — studies — 

LUCIA 

[Clutching his arm] But surely this is not neces- 
sary. "Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord." I beg 
of you, Caesar — 

HELIOGABALUS 

Oh, I forgot. Your religion. Your Christianity. 

LUCU 

We are forbidden to shed blood, even an enemy's. 

HELIOGABALUS 

But no one is asking you to shed any blood, little 
pigeon. I'll do it myself. Besides, there won't be 
much. 

LUCU 

Or to see it shed. 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 57 

HEUOGABALUS 

Well, now, isn't that going rather far? Wouldn't 
it be fair to call that a rather extreme view? 

LUCIA. 

[Her hands on him] Ca»ar, I beg of you, I im- 
plore you — 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Mehingy he slips his arm around her] Oh, if you 
put it on those grounds, why, of course — [He strokes 
her hair] Do you like me, Lucia, just a little bit? 

LUCIA 

I'd like you more, Caesar, if — 

HELIOGABALUS 

[SerUim^erUally] How much more? 

LUCIA 

[Her eyes doumcast] Maybe a great deal more, 
if— ^ 

HELIOGABALUS 

Honest? You swear it? 

LUCIA 

We are forbidden to swear. "Let your Aye be 
Aye, and your Nay — ^" 

HELIOGABALUS 

Yes, but you would^ wouldn't you? 

LUCIA 

I think I would, Caesar, 



58 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Calling to rufinius] Rufinius, you may keep 
your ear. And your beautiful pink whiskers, too. 

RUFINIUS 

[Turning at the ostium] Your Majesty is good! 

HEUOGABALUS 

Moreover, you look tired! You have long hours. 
Suppose you take a little nap out in the ostium. I'll 
call you if I want you. I have a bit more — ^business 
— ^with this young lady. 

RUFINIUS 

At your Majesty's command. 

HELIOGABALUS 

And before you go out, you might as well dim some 
of these lights. They seem to me to be a bit glary, 
so to speak. How about putting out that big one over 
there? [rufinius extinguishes it] So, that's bet- 
ter. Now run along. If I want you I'll call. But 
don't sit up for me. 

[Exit rufinius] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Approaching lucia and eyeing her admiringly] 
And now, my dear and very delightful Christian 
maiden, now that we are alone, let us sit down and 
have a cosy little chat. Oh, not on that stool; it will 
tire your back. Why not here? [He mounts the 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 59 

solium} See, Fll sit here in my regular place, and 
you — ^well, you sit so. [He draws her to his knee] 
How's that? Comfortable? 

LUCIA. 

I am afraid, Caesar. My people will be wondering 
where I am. 

HELIOGABALUS 

And a good joke on them, too. [He laughs elab- 
orately] They'll think you are on your way to the 
lions — and here you are as safe as a bug in a rug — 
and converting the Emperor to this Christianity, as 
you call it. Now, about that Christian kiss you 
showed me — ^just how is it done? 

LUCIA 

[Pecking at him modestly and very gingerly] 
Like this. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Disappointed, shaking his head] Um, kind o' 
short. Not like — ^but maybe — after a while, after a 
little while . . . 

LUCIA 

[Bashfully, but with art] I'm afraid you won't 
respect me. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Looks at her sharply] What's that? 

LUCIA 

I said I thought you would think I was — 



60 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

HEUOGABALUS 

Pish-posh, little goose-liver. I never think such 
things. Don't mention them. 

LUCIA. 

But you have a wife already. 

HEUOGABALUS 

A wife? I have eleven. 

LUCIA 

[Horrified] What! Eleven! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Eleven living. My poor, dear Marcia is dead — 
among others. Paula succeeded her. Dynastic rea- 
sons, my juicy plum: the merit system was unheard of 
in those days. Then there is Annia Faustina, with the 
red hair. And Caelestis. I married her in Gaul: I 
was very lonely. And then there is Aquilia Severa. 
And Falia. And dear little Dacia. That was Dacia 
who was with me when those scoundrels brought you 
in. You will like Dacia — ^that is, you would like her 
if you knew her. And then there is Gestina. And — 

[He hesitates] 

LUCIA 

That makes seven. 

HELIOGABALUS 

And Blenina, the blonde. And Alinia. And — 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 61 

LUCIA. 

That makes nine. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Well, let so much be considered the reading of the 
minutes. It would only bore you to go on. Besides, 
why do it? Put them beside yoUj my new baby — oh, 
my! You saw one of them — Paula. Imagine a 
cultivated man, a man of artistic tastes, swapping a 
real kiss with — 

LUCIA 

But the Lord forbids. A man must cleave to one 
wife. 

HELIOGABALUS 

A sensible idea. In fact, a capital idea. If the 
rest of Christianity is like that, put down my name at 
once. But it's too late. 

LUCIA 

You have married all these women? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Every one of them, so far as I can make out. In- 
cluding Paula. 

LUCIA 

Then you have broken the law of the Lord. Then 
you have sinned. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Snuggling close] Oh, come now. Surely it is 
no sin to marry. I always thought that — 



62 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

LUCIA. 

Marriage is of the Lord. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Well, then, how do you make it out that I have 
sinned? If it's all right to marry one wife, why 
should it be a sin to marry another wife? 

LUCIA 

You are mocking me, Cssar. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Not at all, I assure you. I am quite serious. Just 
why should it be a sin, as you call it, to marry more 
than one? 

LUCIA 

There are many reasons, Caesar. The Lord has 
spoken. A man, in His eyes, can truly love but one 
woman. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Fiddlesticks, little prune cake. I have eleven 
wives, and I love no less than four of them. 

LUCIA 

Love them? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Well, more or less. At all events, I did love them. 
Now — 

LUCIA 

You loved them truly? 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 63 

HELIOGABALUS 

One of them for two long years! 

LUCIA. 

But marriage must endure unto death. 

HELIOGABALUS 

It did. It wasn't my fault. But figure it for your- 
self: When I caught her with that gladiator, what 
could I do? It was a great shock to me. 

LUCIA 

You—? 

HELIOGABALUS 

It cut me to the heart. I almost felt like taking 
some of the poison myself. 

LUCIA 

[Horrified] You had her poisoned? 

HELIOGABALUS 

What was I to do? I went as far as I decently 
could. I invited the gladiator to dinner. They died 
in each other's arms. I even buried him at my own 
expense. 

LUCIA 

You are horrible. 

HELIOGABALUS 

I am a husband. 

LUCIA 

You are it pagajj-^fin infidel! 



64 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

HEUOGABALUS 

And you? IsnU a Christian an infidel? You, too, 
are an infidel — ^but [sentimenudlyli — ^a very dear, 
sweet little infidel. Now, how about another of those 
Christian kisses — ^but this time a man's size one? 

LUCIA. 

[Nat heeding Aim] Could you share your love — 



or what you call your love — ^for me with any other 
woman? 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Under the spell of her beauty] You try my phi- 
losophy sorely. 

LUCIA 

[Insisterul Could you? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Well, I'm no longer as young as I used to be. 

LUCIA 

Could you? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Turn your head a bit, so that the light falls on your 
hair. Ah, the moon! There, that's better. Now, 
what was it you said? 

LUCIA 

Could you share your love for me with another 
woman? 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 65 

HEUOGABALUS 

[A paiisCy during which he admires the picture. 
Emphaticcdiyi No! 

LUCIA. 

[Radiant] Ah, Caesar, you see! Or you begin to 
see. The star of Bethlehem has begun to shine in 
Rome! 

HELIOGABALUS 

[His arm about her] I don't see any star, my dear, 
but the stars that shine in your amethyst eyes. Now, 
please — [A kiss] And now another. 

LUCIA 

What! Right away! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Don't be afraid of crowding them. I could stand 
millions of those stingy Qiristian kisses. A thousand 
of them would only make one real, honest Roman kiss. 

LUCIA 

No. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Yes. 

LUCIA 

No, Caesar. 

HELIOGABALUS 

I order you. 



66 HELIOGABALUS [Act 

LUCU 
[At once archly and coolly^ In whose name, ' 
sar? 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Desperately in her thrall^ In the name of yoai 
God, whose light I am beginning to see. 

LUCIA 

[Now more persuaded^ Well, just a little one. 
[HELIOGABALUS negotiates a long, strangling, gurg- 
ling buss] 

LUCIA 
Oh, my! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Was it nice? 

LUCIA 
[Coquettishly] No. You are bad, Csesar. 

HELIOGABALUS 
What! Bad! 

LUCIA 

Bad, bad, Ctesar. 

[A great crash in the ostium, with yells, helio- 
GABALUS jumps to his feet and reaches for his 
sword, almost dropping LUCIA. Presently a 
Christian comes bounding in, with rufinius and 
two guards hanging to him. rufinius is in his 
undershirt and barefooted. The Christian is a 
man of gigantic stature, and the three have diffi- 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 67 

cuity in holding him. But finally they pin his 
arms behind him^ 

THE CHRISTIAN 

I want to see Caesar! I must face Caesar! 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Observing that the three have at last made him, 
fast. Folding his arms] Let him speak. 

THE CHRISTIAN 

I accuse you, Caesar, of debauchery. 

HELIOGABALUS 

What! You come here m the middle of the night 
to — 

THE CHRISTIAN 

I call on you in the name of the Lord — 

HELIOGABALUS 

[To Lucia} Do you know this gentleman? Who 
is he, and what does he want? 

THE CHRISTIAN 

I want you to liberate that poor, innocent girl — 
that lamb of the Lord. 

LUCIA 

He is Simon of Cappadocia. 

SIMON 

[Still roaring] Let her go! Release her from 
your loathsome embraces! 



68 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

HELIOGABALUS 

Listen to that! [To Lucid] Think of that, my 
dear! 

LUCIA 

[Quietlyl You are wrong, Simon. The great 
Cffisar has done me no harm. 

HELIOGABALUS 

There, you see! 

SIMON 

He has not laid his hands on you? 

LUCIA 

No. That is— 

SIMON 

[Refusing to believe it] You fear him. You are 
afraid to speak! [To heliogabalus] Caesar, what 
are you doing to this maiden? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Doing to her? I am admiring her. 

SIMON 

What are you going to do to her? 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Embarrassed] Now, really — [To lucia] 
Who did you say he is? 

LUCIA 

One of our pastors — Simon. [Apologetically] 
He is very — 



Act I] HELIOGABALUS 69 

HEUOGABALUS 

A pastor? That is, a clergyman? [To simon] 
Are you in holy orders? 

SIMON 

I am a poor shepherd. I seek this strayed lamb. 
The wolves — 

HELIOGABALUS 

Good enough. I respect you for it. So you are 
a clergyman? Well, that simplifies matters enor- 
mously. Get out your tools. [Bells begin to ring 
out] The New Year! 

SIMON 

[In alarm] Tools? 

HELIOGABALUS 

The things necessary for your ceremony of holy 
marriage. I assume that you carry them with you. 
[The din increases] It's the New Year — and I turn 
over a new leaf! 

LUCIA 

[In astonishment; protesting] But, Caesar — 

HELIOGABALUS 

Nonsense, my dear. Tomorrow it may be raining, 
or there may be a parade — [To simon] And now. 
Doctor, you may begin. Do I stand here? 

[The din still increases] 

LUCIA 

[Swept off her feet] But, Caesar, your other wives ! 



70 HELIOGABALUS [Act I 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Himself completely gone'\ I am done with my 
other mves! 

LUCIA. 

Done with them? 

HEUOGABALUS 

Henceforth and for ever! You shall be my one 
wife! And your faith my faith! 

LUCIA 

[Wide-eyed] You mean — ^you mean, Caesar, that 
through me, through love for me, you have come to 
see the light? 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Swung along by the situationl I mean, my fair 
maiden, that I have seen some kind of light in your 
beautiful eyes. I don't know just what it is, or ex- 
actly what it stands for, but I love you, adore you, 
want you — and am willing to follow it — ^blindly. 

SIMON 

[To LUCIA, in amazement] Can you — do you — 
believe? 

LUCIA 

[Taking the Emperor* s handy as the chimes swell to 
a great clamour] The great Caesar sees at last! 

HELIOGABALUS 

[His eyes feasting upon her] What wonderful 

"^^^' CURTAIN 



ACT II 



ACT II 

Sometime in the middle of the year 221 a.d. 

The scene is the cubicula noctuma^ or bedroom^ of 
the Emperor in the Palace. Time: 10 p.m. 

A rather shallow and crowded apartment, with doors 

at the left and upper right, and a single window 

at the right. The Romans, of course, did not 

have beds of the sort we sleep in today. The 

thing they used was a sort of chaise-longue — that 

is, it had no foot-board, heliogabalus' bed is 

to the left of the spectator, with its back against 

the back wall and its foot facing the footlights. 

Beside it, separated by a space of no more than 

two feet, is the huge bed of his wives. It is, in 

design, exactly like his own, but it is at least 20 

feet wide. The bed-clothing stretches unbrok- 

enly from side to side of it, but there are separate 

pillows — twelve of them, each embroidered with 

a large monogram in purple. The pillow with 

the "L*' [for lucia] is nearest heliogabalus' 

bed. In the narrow space between this huge bed 

and HELIOGABALUS' there is a small night table, 

and on it are a lamp and a bottle of water and 

goblets This lump furnishes the only light in 

73 



74 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

the room. Twelve clothes-racks, piled with fin- 
ery, are at the extreme right. 

As the curtain rises, heliogabalus is propped up 
in bed, reading a scroll by the light of the lamp. 
LUCIA is the only occupant of the other bed. She 
is lying near the middle of it, and is thus about 
10 feet from heliogabalus. 

HELIOGABALUS, still holding the scroll in one hand, 
reaches over, pours out a goblet of water, looks 
at it sourly, makes a face, heaves a sigh, o/nt , 
drinks it. 

HELIOGABALUS 

What stufF! No wonder I've still got the stomach- 
ache. [Slowly rolling up the scroll as he gives it a 
final scrutiny^ Hm — ^hm — hm — . . . 

LUCU. 

[After a pause, sleepily] What have you I 
doing, Cassar? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Drinking that washing-water you make me drink, 
and reading. 

LUCU 

Reading what? 

HEUOGABALUS 
Poetry. 

LUCIA 
[Piously} Poetry is corrupting. 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 75 

HEUOGABALUS 

I agree with you. Listen to this: [Readingi 
We shall meet beyond the Jordan 

In the heavenly fields so fair; 
We shall meet our loved and lost ones — 

There will be no parting there. 

LUCU 

[Somewhat uncertainly} Who vrrote it? 

HEUOGABALUS 

One of your Giristian poets — G>mmodianus. 
What you call a hjmm writer. It sickens me. 

LUCIA 

[ChaUengingly] I like it. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Yes, and you also like the Song of Solomon. I 
blush for you, little sweetbread. The Song of Solo- 
mon is pretty raw stuff. It is astonishing what a few 
months of marriage will do to an otherwise modest 
girl. 

LUCIA 

[Primlyl Solomon sang of Paradise. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Oh, did he? But he took good care to fill Paradise 
with cuties. He had the imagination of a sailor. If 
Paradise is actually full of that sort of thing — if such 
didoes go on there — ^then all I can say is that — 



76 HELIOGABALUS [Act 

LUCIA 
Now don't start moralizing, Cassar. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Why not? I am moral: why shouldn't I moralize? 
Is it a crime for a cow to give milk? 

LUCIA 

[An exclamation of disgust] Oh, you always — 

HELIOGABALUS 

I have been faithful to you, little pullet, for 180 
days and, what's more, 180 nights. How's that for 
morab? I defy you to find me a Christian to match 
it, at any weight. Think of it! Here am I, still in 
the prime of life. Emperor of Rome, Pontifex Maxi- 
mus and all the rest of it, and yet I am as virtuous 
as a convict in the death-house. Here am I without 
a glass of schnapps for six months. Here am I with 
twelve wives, at least five of them charming, and I 
lock eleven of them out, and — 

LUCIA 

You must obey the Word. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Well, I have obeyed it. And what do I get for it? 
I still have my stomach-ache. And the one wife I 
have left rolls over about half a mile, and leaves me 
to shiver over bad poetry. [He throws the scroll on 
the floor] My dear, you must allow something to 
my training. I am used to society al night. Loneli- 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 77 

ness always starts up my dyspepsia. How many times 
have I suddenly wakened and cast my eye over that 
'bed and watched the sweet girls as they slumbered, or 
whispered to one another, or nudged one another, or 
giggled in their more or less perfect innocence. 
There was always at least one awake. And when she 
saw me sitting up wearily, tortured by some business 
of state, she would crawl over and pour me out a 
drink of the real stuff, and then snuggle into bed with 
me, and stroke my hair, and — 

LUCIA 

There was always an Eye upon you. There was 
One who saw. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Well, if there was, then I call it damned bad form. 
Even the gods should have some decency. 

LUCIA 

[Horrified] Decency? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Well, then, say good manners. 

LUCU. 

Now you blaspheme, Caesar. You should pray. 

HELIOGABALUS 

I am willing. I have no objection to prayer — in 
its proper place. As you may recall, I was originally 
designed for the church: it was only accident that 
threw me into politics. But your proposal, now — 



your scheme of praying here every evening — isn't H J 
bit vulgar? 

LUCU 
What an idea ! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Still, I can't rid myself of it. It haunts my con- 
science, so to speak. Just think of it a moment. Im- 
agine praying in a — 6er£room! Don't you gel a 
vague flavour of, say, impropriety? Isn't it a trifle — 
indelicate? 

LUCIA 

I think you are talking nonsense. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Reaching for the water-jug and pouring out € 
other goblet] Maybe I am. [He takes a swallow, 
chokes and spits it out] But isn't that precisely what 
a man seeks in marriage — a sort of virtuous nonsense? 
You forget the way I make a living, my cold little rab- 
bit. My days are filled with gloomy duties. If I 
didn't look solemn as an owl the people would lose 
confidence in me. Say I go to the circus. There are 
twenty Jews in the arena, and the guards let out the 
lions. One Jew tries to climb up another Jew. Im- 
agine the fun! 

LUCU 

How you talk! 

HELIOGABALUS 
[Rubbing his stomach, as if feeling a pain] Nei 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 79 

ertheless, it is actual fun, genuine humour — ^and I nat- 
urally want to squat on my little rearo, throw back 
my ears and yell. But I am the Emperor, and so I 
must keep my dignity. Every one else whoops and 
bawls, but if I go further than a snicker then it begins 
to be talked of in the barber-shops, and people say that 
I am drinking too much. [He casts a self-pitying 
glance at the water-bottle] Even as it is, a good many 
of them think that I am somewhat — ^flightier-r-than I 
ought to be. For example, consider my interest in 
you — especially my interest in your faith — ^this so- 
called Christianity of yours. Well, to you it may be 
serious enough, but think how it must appear to the 
average respectable Roman. He regards it as sim- 
ply pishposh — and he thinks of me much as he would 
think of me if he heard that I was interested in some 
sort of idiotic Egyptian sorcery. 

LUCIA 

[Primly'l I see no possible connection. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Naturally not, little canary. You are not a Roman. 
Well, neither am I. I was bom in Syria. I am 
hyphenated. But now to get to my point. First, my 
business all day is solemn; secondly, these little theo- 
logical debates of ours in the evening are solemn. 
So you see what is the matter. I lack recreation. I 
lack — ^well, there is nothing to distract and mellow 
my mind. 



80 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

LUCIA 

[With a touch of sarcasm] Well, what do you 
suggest? 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Brightening] I suggest, first of all, little squash- 
pie, that you come over here and give your little papa 
a great big kiss. 

LUCIA 

[5^i7Z primly] You had better go to sleep. 

HELIOGABALUS 

What! At ten o'clock! That's another thing: this 
ten o'clock business. Really I — 

LUCU. 

It is time. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Yes, it is time for a kiss. Plenty of time — ^time for 
a good, long, damp, sticky one. [Wheedling, half 
rising] Now, come on, Lucia! Be nice! 

[She rolls one eye at him, but doesn*t answer. He 
projects one leg out of bed] 

HELIOGABALUS 

Shall I? [She rolls the other eye indifferently] 
Do you dare me? I double-dare you to dare me! 
[She remains silent] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Now completely out of bed, and standing in the 
narrow space between the beds] Well, here goes eti- 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 81 

quette! Strictly speaking, my gumdrop, you should 
come to me. Remember, I am Emperor, not to say 
Pontifex Maximus. But let it go. Do I get the kiss? 

LUCIA 

\WUh a stiff coquetryl A kiss — ^perhaps. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Only perhaps. And only a kiss? 

LUCIA 

[Slightly unbending] Well, then, maybe — 

HELIOGABALUS 

Well, then maybe what? 

LUCIA 

Maybe a kiss. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Hear, hear! Maybe a kiss! And here I am Em- 
peror, not to say Pontifex Maximus, not to say a hus- 
band! [He climbs into the big bed and starts across 
toward LUCIA on hands and knees. She begins to roll 
away from him] Hey, there, little cocoanut, where 
are you going? [He falls flat] Halt! [He gets in 
motion again] Remember, sweet oyster: love, hon- 
our and obey! 

[lucia eludes him, and he descends to various mon- 
key-shines by way of wheedling her. He grabs 
a pillow and hurls it at her and she flings it back 
at him. Finally^ to the tune of her screeches^ he 
reaches her. He grabs her arm. 



H 82 HELIOCABALUS [Act I^H 


^V [At this instant there is a heavy knocking at the 1 


^H door. HELIOCABALUS leaps back, and listens on J 


^^^ hands and knees, ears up, in 


the attitude of ^H 


^^M cocker-spaniel] 


m 


^m HELIOCABALUS 




^M Thirty thousand oh-hells! 


■ 


^1 LUCU 




^M [Covering her ears with pillows} 


^^M 


H HELIOCABALUS 


^^^ 


^M [He crawls out of the big bed very clumsily, and' f 


^M into his own bed again] Who is h? 


[An unintelUgi- 1 


^M ble voice is heard oiUside] Who? 


[Another blub- 1 


■ ber] What? [Another] Who? 


[Another] J 


^H LUCU. 


^ 


^H It must be Rufinius. 


■ 


^H HELIOCABALUS 


^ 


^1 Ah, Rufinius! So it's Rufinius? 


And I told him 1 


^1 I was — reading. [He slides out of bed into the space 1 


^1 between the two beds and grasps the heavy water-bottle | 


^B by the neck] 


1 


^M LUCIA 


^^^H 


^H [In alarm] Don't hurt him! 


■ 


^V HELIOCABALUS 


^ 


H Sh-h-h-h! [The knock is repeated] Sh-h-h4^^H 


^M [He takes a firm grip on the bottle] 


Come in! ^^^B 


^M ^ [As the door opens and rufinius' head appears^ 1 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 83 

HEUOGABALUS lets fly wUh the bottle. It misses 
RUFiNius by a foot, but he ducks back and slams 
the door. A moment^s silence] 

HEUOGABALUS 

I bet it singed him, anyway. 
[He climbs back into bed] 

LUCIA 

You might have killed him. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Might have killed him. I ought to have killed him. 
ril attend to it in the morning. # 

LUCU. 

He thinks I made you throw that bottle at him. 
[Pause] He doesn't like me. 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Wearily] Nonsense. What makes you think so? 

LUCIA 

I juist simply know it. 

HEUOGABALUS 

[ Testily] Hang this intuition ! How do you know 
it? What's the evidence? 

LUCIA 

[Somewhat reluctantly] Well, when I gave him a 
tract one day last week he wouldn't take it. 






84 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

HEUOGABALUS 

Why not? 

LUCIA 

He said he was a heathen, and proud of it He 
said his father was a Gaulish prince and worshipped 
idols. I warned him of — ^hell-fire. 

HEUOGABALUS 

And what did he say to that? 

LUCU. 

He said — ^well, he said he had made up his mind to 
go to hell. 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Chuckling] Good for old Rufinius! For that 
ril have to let him off. Remind me not to have him 
killed in the morning. 

LUCIA 

[Querulously] You seem to sympathize with him. 

HEUOGABALUS 

In a sense, yes. Things are not as they used to be 
— ^not as he likes them. Rufinius, you see, is getting 
old, and old fellows dislike changes. 

LUCIA 

Have I changed an3rthing? 

HELIOGABALUS 

You surely have. The palace is not quite the — 
well, not quite what it used to be. 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 85 

LUCIA 

[Defiantly] The change is for the better, Caesar! 

HEUOGABALUS 

Morally, yes. Spiritually, yes. But — er, so- 
cially, so to speak, — [a pause] — ^hardly. [He 
climbs wearily into bed] Almost I am persuaded — 

LUCIA 

[Sniffling] You are longing for those awful 
women. You want them back. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Trying to convince himself of his own earnestness] 
No, no. Really not, I assure you. I feel like — ^like 
a man who has come out of a lion's cage into a — 

LUCU. 

Into a what? 

HEUOGABALUS 

[At a loss] Into a — er — into — 

LUCU. 

[Banally] Into Paradise? 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Quickly] Well, surely not into Solomon's Para- 
dise! [Biuerly] Har, har! 

LUCIA 

Still, you miss them. 



86 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

HEUOGABALUS 

Of course I do. Wouldn't a man miss — ^wcU, 
whatever he has become accustomed to? Wouldn't 
he miss his underdrawers? 

LUCIA 

There you go again! 

HEUOGABALUS 

What have I done now? Mentioned underdrawers! 
Well, if a man isn't to mention his underdrawers to his 
wife, who is he to talk about them to? And if he 
doesn't talk about them in a bedroom, where is he to 
talk about them? 

LUCIA 

[Primly] Why talk about them at all? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Why? Simply because they have to be talked 
about. [With growing irascibility^ Don't their but- 
tons come off? Don't they get lost in the wash? 
Don't they shrink? Don't they split up the back? 
Don't they tickle? 

LUCIA 

Well, why didn't you let me know it? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Know what? 

LUCIA 

That their buttons were off, and — 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 87 

HEUOGABALUS 

But they are not off. I was merely arguing. I 
used an illustration. As we Christians say, I spoke in 
a parable. 

LUCIA 

I think you are exciting yourself for nothing. You 
are tired out. Why don't you go to sleep? 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Wearily] Yes, there seems to be nothing else to 
do. My trouble used to be that I didn't get sleep 
enough. But now — ! [He composes himself 
heavily f and for a moment there is silence. He then 
tosses in bed and fusses with the bed-clothes, mutter- 
ing under his breath and whining] Fve got a stom- 
ach-ache. 

LUCIA 

[Raising herself and gazing at him] Are you cold, 
Caesar? 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Bitterly] Who'd care if I froze to death? . . . 
And why do you persist in always calling me Ccesar? 
It's so darned stiff and unbedroomy. My old wives 
used to call me pet names — ^like Helio and Gabby. 

LUCIA 

[After a pause, archly] Would you really like 
me to kiss you? 



M HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

HEUOGABALUS 

[He sUs up quickly, and stares at Aer] Say that 
again* Louder. 

LUCU 

Would you really like me to kiss you? 

HEUOGABALUS 

[With a sigh] You say it just as you might say, 
**Will you have another plate of fish-soup?" 



LUCIA 

But uH)uld you? 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Meditatively] Well, I dare say it might make me 
forget my stomach-ache — if it was a real kiss. [ With 
elaborate manner] Am I to understand that you have 
an itch in that direction? 

LUCIA 

[Taken aback] Itch? 

HEUOGABALUS 

Pardon an old soldier, little moonstone. I should 
say an inclination, an impulse — ^a prompting. 

LUCIA 

[Getting out of bed] Now FU show you, Caesar, 
that I do love you, with a Christian love. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Somewhat at a loss] Positively, darling, you 
alarm me. 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS ^ 

[She has got to heliogabalus' bed by now. She 
enters the space between the two beds^ and he sits 
up and takes her by the waist] 

LUCIA 

There! 

[She kisses him — but very formally and briefly] 

HEUOGABALUS 

Ahl 

LUCIA 

Now, Csesar, you know I love you. 

HELIOGABALUS 

No; so far I merely suspect it What is needed is 
corroboration. Now for another, sweet icebox — and 
let it be a bit more easy and dreamy. Let yourself go 
a bit. Don't hold your breath. Don't — ^forgive me, 
little one — ^be so gol-damed Christian. 

\^A long one, during which, his arms about her, 
LUCIA tries to fight away from him. As they fall 
apart Lucu grasps the bed for support] 

LUCIA 

[Her hands to her face] Oh ! 

HELIOGABALUS 

You may well say "Oh!" Many a woman lives 
and dies without ever getting such a kiss. 

LUCIA 

[Startled] It took my breath. 



90 



HELIOGABALUS [Act 



HELIOCABALUS 

[Not without pride] I dare say, [Hospitably] 
Bui aren't you chilly out there? Why not come in? I , 

LUCIA 
[Suddenly covering her face with her hands] 
those other women! Those awful women! 

HELIOGABALUS 
[Patting her shoulder] Forget them! I expunge 
them from the minutes! Til get rid of them — all of 
ihera! 

[At this, PAULA, who has been concealed under he- 
LiOGABALUs' bed, suddenly pops out her head. 
HELIOGABALUS and LUCIA, of course, cannot see 
her. Her face mirrors the utmost indignation 
and she strains her head to hear better] 

LUCU 

All of them? Even that fat old Paula? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Purge your mind of all concern, darling. I'll have 
Paula poisoned in the morning. She has lived too 
long. 

LUCIA 

[Horrified] Oh, never! I won't have her pw 
soned. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Well, then, I'll marry her off to old Caius Maci 
nus — and ship them both to Persia, 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 91 

LUCIA 

But the others? 

HEUOCABALUS 

ril marry off the whole crowd to Caius. The old 
souse deserves it 

LUCIA 

[Insinuatingly] Even that pretty one — that Dacia? 

HEUOGABALUS 

Yes, either marry her off [weakening] or send her 
home to her mama. But enough of this. You'll 
catch your death of cold. 

LUCIA 

[Without warmth, as if speaking to her father] Is 
there room? 

HEUOGABALUS 

Oh, surely. [He moves over and she climbs in] 
Let me help you. [He gives her a hand and she 
crawls under the covers. He then puts his arm around 
her, and they sit up together] After all, confess that 
this is better than the farm over there. Now isn't it? 
When I crawl in there I feel like a lost orphan. Do 
you remember how I mislaid you the other night? I 
thought you had fallen out of bed, but there you were 
all the while, eighteen feet away. And now: — 

[Another kiss] 

LUCIA 

Caesar, you are 



92 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

HELIOCABALUS 
\Puffi.ng out his chest] I thought you'd like it. 
But it really takes me some time to get into form. 
Now tell me the truth: this is really nicer than pray- 
ing, isn't it? 

LUCIA 

[Tremulously'] I'm afraid it is — sometimes. 



I 



HELIOGABALUS 

Afraid it is? What are you afraid of? 

LUCIA 
[Relapsing into the Christian] We are taught 
that — 

HELIOGABALUS 
Now there you go with that Christianity again! 
You are taught, are you? Well, I'll teach you some- 
thing easier to learn. I am the old professor! Now 
to proceed with the lesson — 

{^Another kiss. Toivard its end there is a knock at 
the door, heliocabalus draws back and 
glances over his shoulder, but quickly resumes 
the buss. Another knock] 

HELIOGABALUS 
[In a sudden rage] Say, what do they think this 
is? A farce? If it's that old interrupting wheeze 
Rufinius again, off go both his legs! And both ears! 
And maybe a bud or two of nose! 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 93 

[ LUCIA m terror leaps from the bed and into her 
own bed. Another knock at the doorl^ 

LUCIA 

You had better let him in. If it wasn't important, 
he surely wouldn't risk his life. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Obviously impressed by the notion] Maybe you 
are right. But let me take at least one more shot at 
him as he comes in. I won't kill him. All I want to 
do is to cripple him. [Gets out of bed, but before he 
can find a missile, there is yet another knock, this time 
very urgent, and he gives it up] Come in! 

[The door opens ever so little, rufinius thrusts 
his hand through the crack. When nothing 
strikes it, he follows with his head, very warily. 
As he comes in paula draws in her head] 

rufinius 
Your Majesty's pardon! I ask pardon! 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Severely] Well, alarm clock? 

RUFINIUS 

A very important matter. [He glances about him, 
his eyes alighting on lucia] For your Majesty's 
private ear. Perhaps it would be better — 

HELIOGABALUS 

Let's hear it. 




[He comes closer^ 

HELIOGABALUS 
l^Testily] Go on with your story, kill-joy. 
[rufinius drops his voice so that his words are not 
audible. The purport of the dialogue must be 
revealed by heliogabalus' answers and exclama- 
tions. While it is elaborately going on, with the 
backs of both turned to the bed, paula pokes out 
her head and listens intently, lucia, sitting up 
in bed, also tries hard to hear, but it is improbable 
that she catches more than an occasional MJOrrflJ 



heliogabalus I 

[Aloud] Make it short. I'm very busy, [ru- 
finius whispers, and HELIOGABALUS suddenly grows 
interested and somewhat alarmed] What do they 
want? ... I thought they were all sound asleep 
over in the North Wing. . . . She isn't? What! A 
riot — and Paula not in it? Then where is she? . . . 
Go find her. I know she's behind it. . . . And get 
the rest to bed. Drunk or sober, get them to bed. 
. . . Tell them I absolutely order it. 

[A noise outside, and a woman's scream] 



LUCIA 
[From the bed, in alarm] What was that? 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 95 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Over his shoulder, reassuringly] Nothing, my 
dear. Stay in bed like a nice girl. 

LUCIA 

[Half out] You are having some one killed ! 

HEUOGABALUS 

Bosh! Stay in bed! [To RUFmros] Get them 
back in the North Wing, and post a guard at — 

[He is cut short by a terrific uproar outside* 
Women screaming. The sound of a bugle. The 
clank of swords. Loud and prolonged military 
orders. A man's voice: "Let go!" A wo- 
man's: "Stick him in the eye!" 

[HELIOGABALUS and RUFiNius tum toward the closed 
door and gape at it dumbfounded, apparently dis- 
inclined to open it and face the music. As they 
move toward it irresolutely, paula rolls from 
under the bed, leaps to her feet, dashes between 
them, blows a loud whistle, gets to the door, and 
throws it open] 

PAULA 

Come in, girls! I am with you! 

[At this, LUCIA, still in bed, screams shrilly, and 
HELIOGABALUS and RUFINIUS fall back. As the 
door swings open c^lestis bounds in with a 
Prcetorian guard dragging behind her. At sight 
of the imperial bedchamber, he is so far overcome 
that he lets go and rushes out a^ain. In the door- 



96 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

way^ he collides with aquilia severa, annia 
FAUSTINA and alinu, all in a great stale of ex- 
citement. They knock him over^ and leap into 
the roomy glaring about them truculentlyl 

PAULA 

[Levelling a melodramatic forefinger at helioga- 
BALUs] There he is! He was plotting to poison all 
of us! 

[Obviously^ paula strikes heliocabalus with a 
good deal of terror. He backs away from her, 
and keeps a safe distance while she declaims. 
She takes the centre of the stage at once^ the 
other wives grouped behind her. After her ac- 
cusation there is a moment of electric silence: 
She fixes heliocabalus with a glare'l 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Weaklyll Oh, surely you exaggerate. I — 

PAULA 

Me first, and then the rest of you. I heard it with 
my own ears. And I heard a lot besides. Such 
talk! I lay there under the bed blushing. 

LUCU 

[Sitting up in bed] You ought to blush, you — 
you — ^you — 

[She is overcome by indigncuion] 

PAULA 

Out of my bed, you — you — ^you! 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 97 

LUCIA 

You — ^y ou — ^y ou — ! 

PAULA 

No more of this Christian monkey-business! Into 
the street you go, where you came from! 

LUCU 

Do you dare — ! 

PAULA 

Yes, the street I saw you myself. I saw you 
haranguing those loafers, and singing songs, and 
passing a soup-plate for coppers. 

LUCU 

[Leaping from 6erf] I refuse to allow you to say 
that. I was preaching the Word. I was seeking 
souls. 

PAULA 

[Moving toward her truculently] Um-hum! I 
know what you were seeking. You had one eye on 
the Palace all the while. 

LUCU 

[In high indignation] There is not a word of truth 
in it. It is infamous. 

PAULA 

Bah! 

THE OTHER WIVES 

Bah! Bah! 



98 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

LUCU 
I was on my Master's business. 

PAULA 
And I am here on my own business. I'll give you 
two minutes to get out of this room — and stay out. 
[ HELIOGABALUS, observing that both sides have for- 
gotten him, gives a sardonic wink and tiptoes up- 
stage toward his bed. He carefully and quietly 
crawls in, fixes the pitloiv behind him, and settles 
down to observe the row. rufinius sneaks to- 
ward the door'\ 

LUCIA 
Never in the world! This is my room now. It has 
been sanctified! 

PAULA 

Sanctified nothing. It's my room — our room. 
You never were legally married to the Emperor, Y« 
are nothing but a — 

LUCLV. 

Oh, what a lie! I was married by my own pas 

PAULA 

Yes, by one of your Christian street-preachers. 
I've seen him! He looks like a drum-major. But 
this is Rome, and — 

LUCU 

\Explosively'\ Well, when it comes to that, \ 
of yourself? Where did you come from? Do« 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 99 

everybody know that you were a chamber-maid in 
Alexandria? 

PAULA 

[Sputtering] I was nothing of the sort, you — ! 
My father was a general in the army. 

ANNIA 

My father was Governor of Macedonia. 

LUCIA 

[Leaping at the chance] Oh, was he? And who 
was your first husband? 
[The boaster is <ibashed] 

LUCIA 

FU tell you. His name was Pomponius Bassus — 
and he was hanged. 

[The boaster begins to snivel, and paula comes to 
the rescue] 

PAULA 

[Grandly] And he deserved it. The way he 
treated that poor, dear — 

LUCIA 

Yes, and he was hanged six weeks after that hussy 
came here and tempted poor Csesar. 
[heliogabalus turns over in the bed] 

PAULA 

A thumping lie! I remember every detail of it. 
It wasn't six weeks at all . . . And now you throw 
on your clothes and get out of here! Out with you! 



100 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

LUCIA 

I shall do absolutely nothing of the sort. 

PAULA 

This free love stuff has got to stop. And it's my 
place to see that it — 

LUCU 

It's your place to turn all these heathen women out 
of the palace, and then turn yourself out, and so save 
the Emperor from such sinful — 

PAULA 

You're a common man-teaser. 

LUCIA 

You are an old scare-crow! 

PAULA 

I'll have you thrown out of the door! 

LUCIA 

I'll have you thrown out of the window! 

PAULA 

You are a loose woman! 

LUCIA 

You used to be a loose woman! 

[The shot injures poor old paula so badly thai she 
jumps at LUCIA and grabs her by the arm, shak- 
ing her furiously] 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 101 

PAULA 

I dare you to say such a thing! 

LUCIA 

Let me go, you — you — infidel! Fll — 
[5^ wrests herself free and deals paula a clout 
over the head, paula lunges at her with vast 
ferocity, but she quickly delivers another blow. 
A huge uproar, heliogabalus stretches his neck 
to see it. rufinius several times steps forward 
as if to interfere, but always thinks better of it. 
PAULA has the advantage of weight, but lucia is 
by far the more agile. Various shrill exclama- 
tions "Oh, you will, will you? Take that! 
Ouch ! Oh, my ear ! Whoop ! " etc. To the ex- 
treme right, beyond the large bed, is the fleet of 
coat-racks, each enormously laden with feminine 
finery, paula backs lucia into them, but 
straightway comes to grief herself, for lucia 
upsets the nearest upon her, and, when she falls, 
heaves another after it. paula, completely 
biiried in clothes, yells for help, and the three 
other wives, who have so far done no more than 
encourage her with shouts, now come to the at- 
tack. LUCIA, leaping behind another rack, 
pushes it at them, and it haks them. Then, 
seeing herself outdone by numbers, she calls for 
help herself^ 

LUCIA 

Oh, oh! Help! Help, Csesar! Save me! 



102 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Crawling from the bed quietly and iditoically] 
Did I hear you call? What's the trouble? Have 
you dropped something? 

LUCIA 

[At the top of her lungs] These filthy creatures 
are trying to kill me! 

PAULA 

[Under the pile of clothes] She bii me! 

[The other wives unearth paula and stand her on 
her feet. It is seen that she has a black eye. 
LUCIA retreats to the door at the left and stands 
there at bay. The other wives haul paula to^ 
ward the centre of the stage, heliogabalus 
crosses to a place between LUCiA and the others] 

LUCIA 

[Hysterically] That old washtub tried to stab me. 

PAULA 

[Breaking from the others^ her hand on her black 
eye] It's a dirty lie! She kicked me in the — 

LUCIA 

She called me awful names ! 

Ci^LESTIS 

I saw her draw a dagger! 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 103 

HEUOGABALUS 

Stop! Be quiet! What sort of bar-room row is 
this? Do you know where you are? 

PAUIA 

I am in my own room. This room is mine. 

AQUIUA 

And ours. 

PAULA 

Yes, and theirs. 

LUCIA 

[Furiouslyl It's mine! 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Decisively] It's mine. [Coolly, with judicial 
poise] And it wouldn't be going too far, ladies, to 
say that I am scandalized by such proceedings. I 
really am. In all my experience, embracing many 
long years and the whole Roman empire, from Britain 
in the far North to Persia in the extreme — 

PAULA 

[Bursting into tears] You bring in a woman off 
the streets — 

LUCIA 

[In tears, too] You let an old unbelieving harri- 
dan, a disreputable old — 

HEUOGABALUS 

As I was saying, ladies, in all my — 



104 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

PAUIA 

I demand that that creature be put out! 

LUCIA 

I demand my rights as your wife! 

HEUOGABALUS 

Really, my dear, you must excuse me. On this 
point the principles of jurisprudence are quite clear. 
A judge is plainly forbidden to sit in a case in which 
he has an interest. If he has an interest in one side 
it is enough. If he has an interest in both sides, then 
surely — 

LUCIA 



Both sides? 



Exactly. 



HELIOGABALUS 



LUCIA 

Do you mean to say that you are interested in the 
side of this — this fat old — ^this — ? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Rid your mind of prejudice, my dear. Observe 
the thing calmly and judicially. Granting all you 
say — ^though I am by no means granting it — ^the fact 
remains nevertheless that according to Roman — if not 
Giristian — law, I am married to this lady — ^these 
ladies — and that that marriage — ^those marriages — 
is and are still legally binding. With the fact go cer- 
tain obligations. I may deplore, as much as you do, 
their somewhat unwise and emotional appear — 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 105 

LUCIA 

Oh, what a — ! 

HELIOGABALUS 

All I ask is that you try 



LUCIA 

Then you don't love me. 

ANNIA 

The idea! 

HELIOGABALUS 

I protest, my dear, that — 

LUCIA 

[Bursting into tears] Then you don't love me! 
Then you told me a falsehood! You aren't a Chris- 
tian! I— I— I— 

[Quite undone by her feelings^ she suddenly hides 
her face in her hands, darts to the left-hand door, 
swings it open, runs out, and slams it after her] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Starting toward the door after her] My dear 
girl, I — 

PAULA 

[Resolutely] Let her go! 

HELIOGABALUS 

But she'll catch cold out there. Remember, she 
has on a very light — 



106 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

CJELESTIS 

Very light nothing. It's flannel. Anyway, she de- 
serves to catch cold. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Really, Gelestis, you are quite savage. 

PAULA 

Who wouldn't be, the way we have been treated? 
[Conciliatingly] But I say nothing against you. 
I know how you are when such a minx gets after you. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Let us not discuss it. 

PAULA 

[Bitterly] No; what's the use? I have had 
eighteen years of it — first in the East and now here 
in Rome. I know you can't help it, poor old dear. 
One glance at such a doll and you are gone. [ To the 
other wives] And now let us try to forget it. It's 
getting late. 

[Instantly they begin to take off their outer gar- 
ments and let down their hair] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[In alarm] What are you doing? 

PAULA 

[Grimly] Getting ready to go to bed. We are 
sleepy. 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 107 

HEUOGABALUS 

But, my dear — ^look, there is Rufinius still in the 
room! 

[The wives glance at rufinius, scream and try to 
hide themselves, rufinius, much embarrassed, 
ducks out of the doorl 

PAUIA 

[ With a bitter grin] Well, now he's gone. 
[5^ continues disrobing] 

HEUOGABALUS 

But, but — ^this is really quite irregular. Let us 
wait until we are all a bit less excited, as it were. 
Now be a good girl. [Wheedlingly] Go back to bed 
in the North Wing, and let me collect my thoughts a 
bit. 

PAULA 

Here I am, and here I stay. 

[She throws her girdle over one of the coat-racksl 

HEUOGABALUS 

But in a minute Lucia'll be coming back, and then — 
[He frantically begins dressing and racing against 
the undressers] 

PAULA 

If she comes back, FU bite her again. 
[She kicks off her sandals'] 



108 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

AQUILU 

[Emerging in nothing save a short shift^ Do you 
think we would sleep in a bed with such a creature? 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Drawing his tunic over his head in wild alarni] 
But the poor girl must sleep somewhere. 

PAULA 

Let her sleep out in the corridor. 

[Slie drops her outer dress and stands forth in a 
grotesque chemise^ decorated with little blue rib- 
bons. The sight so far appals heuogabalus 
that disgust is converted into indignation and in- 
dignation into resolution^ 

HELIOGABALUS 

Very well, then. If she must sleep out there, then 
/ sleep out there too! 

[He is now pretty fully dressed and struggles into 
his sandals] 

PAULA 

[Somewhat shaken] You're not going to leave us? 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Adjusting his tunic] I am going to leave us! 

PAULA 

Leave us here all alone? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Aren't there four of you? 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 109 

PAULA 

But with not a man in the room? 

ANNIA 

[Whimperingi Suppose burglars should break 
in? 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Sarcastically] Paula can deal with them. 

PAULA 

[In tears] No, I can't! 

HEUOGABALUS 

Then let Rufinius come in. He can have my bed. 

PAULA 

[With a yell] The idea! Do you accuse me of — 

HELIOGABALUS 

[At the door to the extreme left] I accuse you of 
nothing. [Opening the door] And now — 

[As he throws the door open, lucia is revealed) 
She has been eavesdropping and is much dis- 
traught] 

LUCIA 

[In a faint voice] I am cold. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Uncertainly] I was just coming out to— 

LUCIA 

[Catching sight of the wives — PAULA in the middle 
of the floor in her chemise and the other three in 



110 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

bed — she gives a scream cmd totters toward the 
centre of the stage. There she does a grand 
faint at paula's feet] 

PAULA 

[Leaping btick] Oh, my God! 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Solemnly^ You have killed her. She has frozen 
to death. 

PAULA 

[Alarmed] I did nothing of the sort. She went 
out of her own free will. 

AQUIUA 

[Jumping from bed] Get her into bed, quick! 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Reaching down and grabbing her under the arms] 
Get her into my bed. 

[The other wives pile outy and help paula and heli- 
OGABALUS to carry her to his bed] 

PAULA 

[Snivelling] I wouldn't have hurt her for the 
world. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Tell Rufinius to get those two doctors I pardoned. 
[ PAULA, still in her chemise^ rushes to the door, 
flings it open and exits] 

CiELESTIS 

Rub her wrists. 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 111 

ANNU 

Have you a key? Try a key at the back of her 
neck. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Cover her up! 

AQUIUA 

Try massaging her ears. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Co get some water. 

[aquiua rushes to the door^ flinging it open just in 
time to admit Piso and polorus. They come in 
at a gallopy followed by rufinius, paula and a 
slave pushing a wheeled table covered with huge 
bottles, rolls of plasters, etc. The scene must 
move at lightning speedy 

PISO 

[Idiotically, in great excitement^ Which is the pa- 
tient? [He looks from one wife to another, and then 
observes lucia on the bed'\ Ah! 

POLORUS 

[Crowding to the front] Pass me the brandy. 

PISO 

Brandy? On what theory? 

POLORUS 

This is no time for theories, idiot! The patient 
needs help. 



112 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

PISO 

Well, how are you going to help her until you es- 
tablish the diagnosis? 

POLORUS 

What could be plainer? A horse-doctor could see 
that she has fainted. 

[He proceeds to pour out a large drink of the 
brandy] 

PISO 

[Very learnedly] Suppose it is coma? Suppose 
she has been poisoned? 
[PAULA gives a shriek] 

POLORUS 

Nonsense! Then where is your cyanosis? 
[He proceeds to lift lucia's head and pour some of 
the brandy into her moulh] 

PISO 

Stop! I forbid it! 

[During this rapid dialogue the three other wives 

flutter abouty and heliogabalus and paula 

crowd close to the bed] 

POLORUS 

[Continuing with the brandy] I stand on my Hip- 
pocratic oath. I insist on the brandy. 

Piso 
I appeal to your decency. Don't kill the patient. 
[paula screams again] Let me feel her pulse. 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 113 

POLORUS 

Stand back! You are sii£focating her! 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Losing patience] Here, fools ! Give me the gob- 
let. 

[He seizes it and pours half of its contents down 
lucia's throat. She gasps, coughs, gags and 
then gradually sits up. As she opens her eyes 
she sights paula] 

LUCIA 

[An exclamation of terror] Oh! Oh! Take her 
away! 

[paula hops back in great confusion] 

PAULA 

[Ingratiatingly] Don't be afraid, dearie. 

LUCIA 

[Screams] She tried to stab me! 

PAULA 

[In great excitement] The idea ! I never did any- 
thing — 

LUCIA 

J[ can see the devil standing behind her! 
[paula swings about quickly to look behind her, 
loses her balance, throws up her arms, and falls 
down with a cra^h] 



114 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

PAULA 

Help! 

POLORUS 

[Rushing to the rescue] Brandy! Brandy! 
[A great hub-bub. The wives crowd around] 

PISO 

[Shrilly, over the turnult] I forbid it! 

HEUOGABALUS 

Give her air! 

[poLORUS applies the brandy jug to Paula's lips 
and she begins to gurgle, gag and blubber] 

PAULA 

[Still gasping, and rising to a sitting position on the 
floor] That Christian tried to put a spell on me. 
She has the evil eye. 

LUCIA 

[Shrilly, from the bed] There are devils in her! 
She is like the Gadarene swine. 

PAULA 

[Struggling to her feet, assisted by the doctors, the 
other wives and heliogabalus] Liar! 

LUCIA 

She is possessed by demons, Caesar. 

PAULA 

[Again in great fright] Let me out of here! I 
feel something coming over me! 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 115 

AQUIUA 

I feel it, too. I — I — 

[She flops across the big bed. polorus leaps to 
the rescue with the brandy-jug, but as he reaches 
her she sits up and knocks it out of his hand] 

PISO 

[Prancing about] Where is the ammonia? Who 
has the ammonia bottle? 

[He searches for it on the wheeled table, but can't, 
find it] 

PAUIA 

Let me out ! Let me out ! 

POLORUS 

Ammonia your grandmother! Where are the seda- 
tives? Who took the poppy-water? Where is the 
poppy-water? 

[He makes a wild search for it] 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Quietly] I think you're right. They need some- 
thing to calm their nerves. [He finds and seizes the 
bottle] Ah, here it is! Ammonia would half kill 
them. 

Piso 

I protest! 

PAULA 

I want to get out of here. 
[rufinius tries to calm her] 



116 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

HEUOGABALUS 

One second, darling. [As polorus offers her a 
goblet of the poppy-water^ Now be a nice little girl, 
and swallow this medicine. It will make you dream 
beautifully. 

PAULA 

[Dubiously^ What is it, doctor? 

HEUOGABALUS 

Never ask a doctor what anything is. Remember 
your manners. He mightn't know. It will make you 
dream that you are seventeen, and in love with a 
gladiator. 

PAULA 

You're sure it won't hurt me? 

POLORUS 

Oh, absolutely no. 

Piso 
I— 

HELIOGABALUS 

[To Piso] Silence! [To paula] Now down 
with it. 

[She drinks it, and at once grows somewhat calmer. 

Gradually she succumbs, and by the time she goes 

out she is very sleepy^ 

PAULA 

[Smacking her lips] It tastes like — it tastes like — 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 117 

POLORUS 

Exactly. And now for the other ladies. Who's 
next? 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Sharply] Caelestis! 

[The wife on the bed struggles up and comes for^^ 
ward] 

POLORUS 

[ The goblet in hand] Ready ? 

HEUOGABALUS 

Shut your eyes! 

[c^LESTis swallows the dose without a word] 

POLORUS 

[Refilling the goblet] Next! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Come, Aquilia. 

AQUILIA 

[Doubtfully] It won't make me fat? 

POLORUS 

Oh, surely not. 

AQUILIA 

You're positive? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Positive. Down with it. [She swallows the dose] 
And now little Annia. One, two, three! 



118 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

[POLORUS fills the goblet again and U goes daum 
immediately] 

POLORUS 

Ah! So much for that! 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Herding the wives toward the door] And now 
you girls try to get some rest, and leave the doctors 
with poor Lucia. I'm afraid it may be a case for im- 
mediate operation. They'll have to examine her from 
head to foot 

LUCIA 

[From the bed] I won't have any operation! I 
won't be examined from head to foot! The power of 
the spirit is enough. 

PISO 

Oh, hardly. 

LUCIA 

[Petulantly] I refuse to be cut up! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Now, now, be calm. Look at the other girls. [To 
paula] And now try to get some rest. I'll come out 
to see you immediately after the operation. [Mov- 
ing her toward the door^ the others following] Take 
things easily for — 

PAULA 

I feel so — 

HELIOGABALUS 

Yes, yes, but you'll feel better presently. 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 119 

HELIOGABALUS 

[To POLORUS in a hoarse whisper] Give them all 
another dose — ^a double dose. Especially Paula. 
She has the stomach of a policeman. 

[The wives wobble outy followed by polorus, the 
slave wiih the table of medicines, and rufinius. 
Only Piso remains] 

PISO 

[Ingratialingly] Your Majesty's excellent sug- 
gestion of an operation is — 

HELIOGABALUS 

[ Turning with great deliberation, and kicking Piso 
in the rear] Out! 

[piso, after an instant of amazement, leaps for the 
door and disappears] 

LUCIA 

That Paula is an old hyena, Caesar. She tried to 
bite me. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[He seats himself on the edge of the big bed, his 
legs swinging in the open space between the two beds. 
His manner is that of weariness and resignation] 
Yes, she's somewhat — explosive. I am afraid she's 
sometimes unwise in the use of — er, stimulants? 

LUCIA 

Afraid? She's been drunk for months — ever 
since — 



120 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

HEUOGABALUS 

Yes, she's taken it very hard. 

LUCU 

[Somewhat oratorically] Wine is a mocker. 
Strong drink is raging. 

HEUOGABALUS 

A mocker, yes — ^but also a consoler. Don't 
forget that poor old Paula must have time to get used 
to things. I daresay the new regulations rather op- 
press her. 

LUCIA 

You mean she longs for all those old dissipations — 
those banquets every night, and all that worldly carnal- 
ity — ^and this room full of those awful women? 

HEUOGABALUS 

Exactly, though I doubt that sheM describe it in just 
that way. You see, she was brought up in Alexandria 
— a rather lively burg. It's all a matter of training. 
Here she had certain responsibilities, certain inter- 
esting duties — 

LUCIA 

Yes, I know what those duties were. They were 
sinful in the sight of Cod. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Perhaps. Nevertheless, they occupied her mind. 
Let us be just to her. She was competent. She knew 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 121 

her business. I never had any trouble with those girls 
while she was in charge of them. 

LUCIA 

Those scarlet women! 

HEUOGABALUS 

Now you are exaggerating. They are all quite re- 
spectable. My marriage to every one of them is, as 
Fve told you, sound in Roman law. 

LUCIA 

But not in the eye of God. The Scripture says "A 
bishop shall have but one wife." 

HELIOGABALUS 

But I'm not a bishop. 

LUCIA 

Well, surely no one ought to be allowed more wives 
than a bishop. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Granted. But here they are. 

LUCIA 

Turn them away. Read the Word. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[A bit irritated] Yes, yes; I have read it. The 
theory is very lovely. It has affected me greatly; I 
have adopted it as you know. But here I have these 
girls legally on my hands, and surely you wouldn't 
ask me Xq—' 



122 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

LUCIA. 

You should be glad to get rid of them. Such a 
pack of — of — 

HELIOGABALUS 

Now, now, I must really forbid you. Paula, of 
course, is open to a certain criticism, at least sesthetic- 
ally. And Cselestis is probably no stunner. But 
among the others there are certainly a number wh< 



LUCIA 

[Tearfully] You don't love me in the proper 
Christian way ! 

HELIOGABALUS 

What nonsense! I love you to an extreme degree. 
[He takes up and kisses her hand] My affection for 
you is really colossal. But let us be just. Surely it's 
absurd to say that all of them are — ^well, offensive. 
There are surely exceptions. 

LUCIA 

[Resolutely] Not one. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Oh, come now. For example, there is Dacia. I 
haven't seen her for these long months, but I remember 
her quite clearly* Surely Dacia has a certain charm. 
She is young, she has a good complexion, she sings 
very acceptably, and she — 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 123 

LUCIA 

I see what is the matter. You are homesick for her 
and her kind. For her and the old infidel life. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Not at all. I merely remember her. That's all. 
I merely remember. A toothsome girl. But a lady. 
Her father was a philosopher in Athens . • . she 
wasn't in that crowd. She is naturally affectionate. 

LUCIA 

And kissing all the time, I suppose. Never a mo- 
ment for the things of the spirit. Always the flesh. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Oh, by no means. I really wouldn't have permitted 
it. I quite agree with you there. Such things may 
be overdone. At my age. 

LUCIA 

But you like it, don't you? 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Looking at her sharplyl Yes — on occasion. 
But there is where I agree with jrou: that is the precise 
reason why the thing should be limited. [A bit wist- 
fully^ If one kissed too much, one would be too 
happy. And that, of course, wouldn't do at all. 

LUCIA 

The happiness of this life is as dust. 



124 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Grudgingly] So you tell me. 

LUCIA 

The happiness to come is eternal. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Well, I hope so. But, you see, my trouble is old 
Paula's. I was brought up wrong. I suppose it is in- 
curable. I notice, at times, an almost irresistible las- 
civiousness — what you call worldliness. [Amorously] 
When I see you there in your nightie I forget all about 
Christianity and can hardly resist the temptation to 
throw my arms around you and give you a hug. I 
know it's wrong, but there it is. 

LUCIA 

[Somewhat shaken] Well, I shouldn't call it las- 
civiousness. And it isn't exactly wrong. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Ironically] No? 

LUCIA 

The Scriptures say — 

HELIOGABALUS 

Ah? Then let us be glad they approve it, little 
pot-pie. It is pleasant to be virtuous — that is, more 
or less. 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 125 

LUCIA 

[Demurely after a pause] Do you want to kiss 
me? 

HEUOGABALUS 

[He begins slowly to take off his tunic. As he an- 

swersy it is over his head] I am perfectly willing. 

But, I warn you, Fm not going to stand any more 

Qiristian kisses. And what's more, if Fm interrupted 

any more by any low-comedy Palais Royal knocking 

on that dog-gone door just as I am on the point of — 

[He is duly cut short by a loud knocking on the 

door. He tries to get out of his tunic quickly, 

and then, thinking better of it, decides to let it 

down again] 

, HELIOGABALUS 

[Wrathfully] What is it now? [An unintelligi- 
ble answer from without] Hey? [Another mum- 
ble] I can't hear you. Come in. 

[Enter rufinius. He stops near the door and 
glances at lucia dubiously] 

rufinius 
I came in. Majesty, to report — 
[He stops] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Coming down toward rufinius] What! Fm 
good and damn sick of this "I came in to report, Maj- 
esty," just as Fm about to — What's up? More 
trouble? 



126 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

RUFIMUS 

No, Majesty. The ladies are all asleep. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Hear, hear! And he ^^comes in to report. Maj- 
esty'* just as Majesty is about 



RUFINIUS 

The Empress Paula is breathing very heavily. Maj- 
esty. The doctors are trying to revive her. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[In a sudden rage] What! Revive her! Seven 
thousand loud damns. Tell them to give her another 
dose of the same — ^give them another dose all 'round. 
Tell those quacks that — the infernal boobies! OflF 
go their toes if a single patient wakes — and both ears. 
Now quick, before they revive her! 

[Pushes RUFINIUS toward the door] 

RUFINIUS 

As you order, Majesty. But there is another mat- 
ter. 

HELIOGABALUS 

What is it, foul fool? 

RUFINIUS 

Another one of the ladies has come over from the 
North Wing — ^Dacia. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Softening] Ah, Dacia! What does she want? 
Surely she — 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 127 

RUFINIUS 

Oh, not at all. She asked me to inquire how her 
Majesty is, and if you yourself are feeling quite well. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Ah, very thoughtful of her. Tell her I am quite 
well. And don't forget to thank her. Remember, 
Rufinius, give her my thanks. 

RUFINIUS 

[Going to the door] As you order. Emperor. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Tell her not to neglect her music lessons. And — 
but just say I may want to see her for an instant to- 
morrow — some business — of state — ^that I had for- 
gotten. 

RUFINIUS 

As ordered. Majesty. 
[He goes out] 

LUCIA 

You are still thinking of that heathen Dacia. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Nonsense, sweet potato. You are really quite ab- 
surd. [Suddenly irritated] Damn it all, a man 
must be polite. 

LUCIA 

[Jealously] But you used to love her before I 
convertfj^ yovk tQ the Faith. 



128 HELIOGABALUS [Act II 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Starting to take off his tunic again] Ah, who 
knows? Love — what is it? A sort of optical delu- 
sion, an enchantment — almost alcoholic. 

[He gets it over his head, and stands rubbing his 
bare arms and shoulders] 

LUCU 

Love comes from the soul. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Yes, even the soul takes a hack at it. 
[He starts to climb into the sm/dl bed] 

LUCIA 

[Loudly] Where are you going? 

HELIOGABALUS 

[His leg in mid-air^ coaling in baby -like tone] 
Please! I don't want to sleep over there — [indicat- 
ing the big bed] — in Siberia. It's so cold — and when 
I get cold it always gives me my stomach-ache. 

LUCIA 

No! One must not think of the flesh, Caesar. 

HELIOGABALUS 

But you're my wife, aren't you? You wouldn't 
have me freeze to death? 

LUCIA 

But not a pagan wife. I am a Christian wife, 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 129 

HEUOGABALUS 

Well, doesn't a Christian wife promise to cherish 
her husband? [Still coaxing, and shivering'] 
Please! 

LUCU 

No. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Please, please! 

LUCIA 

Again, no, Caesar. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[With a weary sigh, crawling into the big bed] 
Lucia, I can't understand you or this Christianity 
either. What's the idea of trying to make people 
miserable by forbidding them to do what they want 
to, and then, when they're unhappy about it, telling 
them they're awfully happy but don't know it? 

[ LUCIA rolls over and does not reply, helioga- 
BALUS sighs] 

HELIOGABALUS 

Anyway, I don't seem to get used to this going to 
bed sober. [He props himself up in bed, and ram- 
bles on without paying much heed to lucia] Now, 
you were saying that love is of the soul. But see 
what a conclusion it brings you to: then even old 
Paula must have a soul, for old Paula used to love 
me. 



30 HELIOGABALUS [Act 

LUCIA. 

[Sleepily] Paula, too, has an immortal soul. 

HELIOGABALUS 

The gods forbid! [Humorously'\ But what 
r — what of, say Daeia, for example? 



lYauining] 



LUCIA 
This Dacia, too, has a soul. 



HELIOGABALUS 

Nobly spoken. And much better news! [ffoJ 
dreamily] But what is this so-called soul you speak 
of? Is it a gas? Has it got length, breadth, thick- 
ness? Is the soul in the body, or the body in the 
soul? When I used to cut a Christian into two halves, 
which half was the soul in? Was it divided too? 
Well, then, suppose I had him run through a sausage 
cutter, and he came out, say, in four million pieces: 
was the soul in four million pieces, too? You say 
that the soul re-enters the body on the day of judgment. 
Well, suppose I take two Jews and cut off their 
heads, and put the head of A on the body of B, and 
vice versa. Does the soul of A go into the body 
of A or into the head of A, which is on the body 
of B? If it goes into the head, is it responsible 
for the sins of the body of B? [He reaches over and, 
slyly watching LUCiA out of the comer of his eye, pours 
out a goblet of the brandy which the doctors have left 
there, slowly sipping it with much lip-smacking a 
goes on] Do you follow me? 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 131 

LUCIA 

[Half asleep] Oh, how you talk, Caesar! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Talk? Talking is my trade, little icicle. Talk is 
the heart's blood of politics. . . . And of love. I 
used to have even greater skill than I have today. He 
had a smooth and slippery tongue, had Heliogabalus. 
Years ago, when I was a lieutenant in the army, I used 
to — [sighs] Well, they were all willing: my con- 
science is perfectly clear. As the lawyers say, Caveat 
emptor. When a girl has a taste for epigrams she 
must be careful : a man of my wit is dangerous. I'll 
never forget my poor dear first wife — ^good old Mar- 
cia. It was an epigram that made her fall in love 
with me. I remember the circumstances perfectly. 
She was complaining that love was beyond her com- 
prehension — ^that it was ineffable, indescribable, 
transcendental. "Love," / replied, with droll per- 
spicacity, "Love," I replied, "is the triumph of im- 
agination over intelligence." 

[He chuckles] 

LUCIA 

[Yaiuns audibly, and turns over] 

HELIOGABALUS 

You interrupt me, cold darling. What I was about 
to say is that poor old Marcia laughed so hard she 
rolled clear out of bed. An old joke — ^as old as the 
Babylonians. But fact ! You should have heard the 



132 



HELIOGABALUS [Act II 



bump when she landed on her — [a sidelong glance] 
— ^her upholstery. I had to haul her back into bed. 
[He sips again] Ah, love, indeed ! A short preface 
to a long book! [He pauses and waits for apprecia- 
tion. No sound comes from Lucu, He goes on in a 
slightly louder voice^ Love is like war: easy to be- 
gin but very hard to slop. [Another inquiring glance 
at lucia] When loves dies there is never any fu- 
neral: the corpse remains in the house. [Another] 
A woman in love is less modest than a man: she has 
less to be ashamed of. [A longish pause. He takes 
a deep draught] Love is the delusion that one woman 
differs from another, [lucu is still silent. He lifts 
himself to his elbow and regards her contemplatively. 
He calls her softly] Lucia! Sweet Lucia! . . . 
Asleep! [A sigh] Christianity is fatal to the — er — 
epigram. How Marcia used to giggle! And little 
Dacia! Dacia has a sense of humour. An intelli- 
gent girl, Dacia. And how her nose puckers when 
she is a bit- — squiffed. Somehow, I — [He empties 
the goblet and composes himself. The regular breath- 
ing of LUCIA can be heard] This Christianity may be 
all right in the daytime, but at night — [Suddenly, from 
somewhere below the window there comes the soft, low 
sound of a girl's voice, raised in song. It is a song of 
love and passion, and heliogabalus sits up in bed to 
listen. Toward the end he glances at LUCIA, scarcely 
concealing a rising aversion. The song ended, he aet- , 
ties himself, wets his lips, and smiles amorously] 



Act II] HELIOGABALUS 133 

HELIOGABALUS 

[In a caressing whisper"] Dacia! 



CURTAIN 



ACT III 



ACT III 

The next night. 

A corridor in the palace. It stretches longitw- 
dinally across the stage and is rather narrow. In the 
wall to the back there is a wide and high arch, cov- 
ered with heavy hangings of imperial purple, showing 
two large embroidered H^s, with wreaths above them, 
in gold. The solid wall of the corridor, seen to the 
two sides of the central hangings, is of coloured mar- 
ble. The hangings conceal the state banquet hall, 
and the corridor is the emperor's means of getting to 
the latter from his private apartments. All decora^ 
tions are simple, but of the utmost richness. 

During the whole act, down to the last scene, sounds 
of revelry come from the banquet hall — laughter, 
music and the clinking of goblets — now faintly and 
now loudly. 

As the curtain rises Piso and polorus enter, fol- 
lowed by a slave pushing their rolling table of medi- 
cines and instruments. They are in long white tunics, 
reaching below the knees, and with ^short sleeves — the 
early Roman equivalent of modem operating gowns. 

PISO 

[To the slave'l Here, Ambrose, shove it to this 
side. 

187 



138 HELIOGABALUS [Act III 

[The slave runs the table to the left, halts U by the 
back wall, and exits] 

POLORUS 

[Offtciously] Where is the headache powder? 

PISO 

[Reaching to the shelf beneath the table, he brings 
up a huge blue bottle] Here you are. Do you think 
we have enough? 

POLORUS 

It's enough to kill them, but I doubt that it's enou^ 
to cure them, once they get started. 

Piso 
Well, if we run out of it, we can give them some 
cholera mixture. They'll never know the difference. 

POLORUS 

[Busily arranging the bottles] All this does me 
good, my boy. It makes me young again. 

Piso 
Do you think the moral movement is really over? 

POLORUS 

If it isn't, then why this good old-fashioned ban- 
quet? Why all the old crowd? Why all the old 
girls? I suspect that Paula arranged the whole thing. 
Have you seen the list of guests? 

PISO 

No. 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 139 

POLORUS 

Well, not a tank is missing. Every zinc-lined 
stomach and copper-plated kidney in Rome is here. 
By the way, have we got enough stomach-pumps? 

PISO 

[Indicating them] Here are six. 

POLORUS 

Maybe that will be enough. [He roots among the 
medicines] I have a feeling that this will finish the 
Qiristian wife. She'll never stand for an old-time 
banquet. 

Piso 

Then let us thank all the gods. If Christianity 
ever actually got on its legs, the doctoring business 
would go to pot. All this praying and fasting and 
going to bed at ten o'clock is fatal to pathology. The 
aim of medicine is to save a man from the just con- 
sequences of his own vices. If he gives up his vices, 
then — 

POLORUS 

But he never does. All he ever comes to is the ex- 
change of one vice for another. This praying that 
you mention is a vice. Fasting is a vice. Going to 
bed at ten o'clock is a vice. 

PISO 

Maybe so. But I am speaking medically. The 
medicine that we studied was designed for certain 
ends. It supposes the existence of certain vices. 



140 HELIOGABALUS [Act 11 

You and I know, for example, how to treat a man 
who has eaten too much or who hasn't had sleep 
enough. But what of the man who has fasted, and at 
the same time got too much sleep? There you stand 
medicine on its head. And I am too old to learn it 
all over again. 

POLORUS 

[ArgumeuJatively] You make imaginary difficul- 
ties, Dr. Piso. Simply give him a dose of salts, say 
I, and trust to luck. You talk as if a physician had to 
cure his patient. Nonsense. All he has to do is to 
try to cure him. 

PISO 

[Bridling] Is that so? Then how do you— 

[He is cut short by the entrance of CAius Maceinus 

from the left. CAius lumbers toward PiSO and is 

seen to be already far gone in liquor] 

CAIUS 
Say, Doctor — 

PISO 

Why, Commander! What hrings you here? 

CAIUS 
Ain't this the night of the hanquet? I thought t 
was the night of the banquet. If this ain't the oigl 
of the banquet, then I — 

PISO 

Of course it is. But how did you get here? 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 141 

CAIUS 

Ain't this the palace? I thought this was the pal- 
ace. I saw a lot of girls going in the basement and so 
I thought it was the palace. 

PISO 

So it is. But this is the Emperor's private corridor. 
You ought to have gone the other way, through the 
atrium. 

CAIUS 

Excuse me, gentleman. I apologize. [He at- 
tempts a right-about'fMe] Which way did you say? 
I thought I was in the palace. I saw a lot of cuties 
going into the basement and so I thought it was the 
palace. [Suddenly pidling himself up] But say, 
Doctor, I knew I wanted to see you about something. 
You are Dr. Piso, ain't you? 

PISO 

I am the Dr. Piso. 

CAIUS 

I remember you that time I had that carbuncle. 
Where was it? Somewhere in Caul. My, my! 
How the years do skip along! Here it's July again — 
[He pauses uncertainly] Is it? Is it July again? 

PISO 

[Professionally] You say you desire to consult 
me. Commander? 

CAIUS 

Doctor, you know what it is — ^this sea-faring life. 



142 HELIOGABALUS [Act III 

I thought my legs would give out first But it turns 
out to be my stomach. 

PISO 

You have indigestion? 

CAIUS 

No, sir! I can digest anything. I could eat an 
alligator. Tail and all. 

PISO 

But— 

GAIUS 

[Looking about him cauiiously'l Shhhh! Fm 
coming to it! I can eat anything, but — ^but — 
[His voice quavers] 

PISO 

But you're not what you used to be at — 

CAIUS 

[He nods moumfully] Half a dozen bottles of 
wine, and Fm not worth a damn. The fact is, I am 
almost a teetotaler — ^practically. I hardly drink a 
thing — scarcely. [He sighs boozUyl Think of 
what's ahead of me tonight. They're all here — ^the 
military, the judiciary, the Senate. K I drink with 
all those gold-fish, then FU be laid up tomorrow, and 
maybe die. And if I don't drink, then I disgrace the 
navy. 

PISO 

Too bad. But maybe I can help you. 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 143 

CAIUS 

That's what I was getting at. Doctor. I remember, 
out in Asia Minor, how those slick Persians would 
take a hooch of something or other, and then they 
were ready for anything. The point is, what was it? 

PISO 

Olive oil. 

POLORUS 

Ammonia. 

PISO 

Ammonia your uncle! 

POLORUS 

[Bitingly] Yes, ammonia one's uncle! An 
ounce in a glass of milk, before or after. 

CAIUS 

Could I take them both? 

PISO 

Yes, if you are crazy. 

POLORUS 

Why not? The ammonia will fix him, and the olive 
oil won't kill him. [Busying himself at the table} 
Let us mix them. 

[He pours the olive oil and ammonia into a beaker^ 
and starts to stir the mixture} 

CAIUS 

[Getting affectionate and placing hU arm around 



144 HELIOGABALUS [Act III 

POLORUs' neckl Oh, Doctor! Give me a big one! 
DonU tease me with a pony! 

POLORUS 

This is the regular size for elephants and gladia- 
tors. Now — there you are — down with it! 

[He hands CAius the beaker. CAius dawns U at a 
fearful gulp, and conies up spluttering and roll- 
ing his eyes] 

CAros 
[Faintly^ Is there a chaser? 

PISO 

No. Let it alone. The fire will go out of itself. 
[ CAIUS attempts to speak, but achieves only an un- 
intelligible whisper] 

POLORUS 

[Elbowing him toward the left] Go out in the 
atrium, Commander, and stick your head in the pool. 
[ CAIUS again attempts to speak, but cannot, and 
waddles off] 

PISO 

[Calling after him] Don't forget the professor! 

POLORUS 

[Coming back] That old soak is on his last legs. 
Practically a teetotaler! I wonder what he — 

PISO 

[At the table] Where did you get that olive oil? 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 145 

POLORUS 

Out of the tall yellow bottle. 

PISO 

Well, you wasted four ounces of good turpentine 
liniment. 

POLORUS 

[Examining the bottles] Um, it's six of one and 
half a dozen of the other. But I didn't waste any 
ammonia. I gave him ninety per cent, alcohol 

PISO 

What are the odds? I once cured a case of chil- 
blains with a couple of liver pills. 

POLORUS 

You ought to try some of those pills on the Emperor. 

PISO 

Ought to try them? I have given him a keg of 
them. 

POLORUS 

Then it's no wonder / can't cure him. 

PISO 

[Irascibly] You? Do you ever cure patients? 
Oh, my word! It's those infernal powders of yours 
that counteract the pills. No wonder he gets worse. 
I can never give him enough of my pills to catch up 
with your powders. If you — 

[He is interrupted by the sudden appearance of 



146 HELIOGABALUS [Act III 

SIMON, the Christian giants from the right. 
Simon's eyes are staring, and he is evidently la- 
bouring under much excitement] 

SOfON 

[In a sepulchral voice} God be with you! 

PISO 

[Startled] The same to you. Reverend. But 
what are you doing here? 

SIMON 

[Mysteriously] I have business here. 

POLORUS 

Business here? Don't you know what's going on? 

SIMON 

I see preparations for debauchery — sin — ^venery — 
the devil's work. 

PISO 

Not so loud, old schooner. The Emperor is giving 
this banquet. Remember the Espionage Act. 

SIMON 

My business is urith the Emperor. 

POLORUS 

[Amazed and amused] Surely you are not going 
to the banquet yourself? 
[piso haw-haws] 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 147 

SIMON 

[Solemnly] I have come to — ^to — ^to — [He hesi- 
tates] I have come to — 

PISO 

You have come to look them over? 

POLORUS 

You want to see whether the girk really do take oflF 
their — 

SIMON 

[Cutting in] Girls? Bah! I abhor the scarlet 
woman. My prayers are for one pure woman, for — 

PISO 

The wife Lucia! 

POLORUS 

« 

[Nodding his head] He's mashed on her. 

SIMON 

[Indignantly] I am old enough to be her fadier. 

PISO 

Yes, so is the Emperor. 

SIMON 

Let him have a care! Let him remember the 
wrath to come. 

POLORUS 

What! At a banquet? 

SIMON 

Even at a banquet. Even amid the flesh-pots. 



148 HELIOGABALUS [Act III 

Even among the scarlet women. Let him remember 
his lawful wife. I hear talk that is terrible. 

PISO 

What do you hear? 

SIMON 

That he plans to cast her off. More, that he plans 
to — ^murder her. 

POLORUS 

[Glancing about hini] Oh, I say! 

SIMON 

Even as he has murdered other poor women — trust- 
ing hearts — discarded wives. [Suddenly infuriatedl 
But not the wife Lucia! The moment his slaves touch 
the anointed of the Lord — [He draws a dagger] — 
that moment I plunge this knife into his heathen heart! 

PISO 

[Nervously] My dear sir, calm yourself. This 
is awful talk. I positively refuse to listen to any 
such anarchism. 

SIMON 

I shall wait here. I am ready. I shall serve the 
Lord. 

POLORUS 

Suppose you let me have that knife. I am more 
used to such things. You are a clergyman. It may 
cut you. 

[As he steps forward, there are noises outside, to 



• 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 149 

the left. The band behind the curtain strikes up 
more loudly, and presently voices call "The Em- 
peror! The Emperor!"] 

SIMON 

[Flourishing the dagger] Nay! I shall wait 
here! I am ready. 

[More cries. The music grows louder. Piso and 

POLORUS grow increasingly alarmed. Cries of 

"The Emperor! The Emperor!"] 

PISO 

[In a panic] What are we to do? 

POLORUS 

If we had time we could anesthetic him. 

PISO 

Yes, if we had time we could hypnotize him. But 
now? 

SIMON 

Pray to the Lord! 

POLORUS 

Yes, yes, but not now. Not here. I never miss the 
Day of Atonement. I promised my old mother. [In 
full demoralization, to Piso] You tackle him. 

PISO 

[Panic-stricken, to simon] Why not go out and 
take a little walk and come back later? 



« 



150 HELIOGABALUS [Act III 

SIMON 

I Stay here. I am set here to watch. An angel 
charged me to — 

[Shouts of **The Emperor!" very near. The 

music grows louder still. Cheers behind the 

hangings'] 

POLORUS 

[Pushing him back frantically] But you're block- 
ing up the passage-way. It is forbidden. Surely 
you don't want to offend the Emperor. 

SIMON 

[Idiotically] Not unnecessarily. 

PISO 

Well, then— 

POLORUS 

[Inspired] Ah, here! 

[He shoves simon behind the hangings at the ex- 
treme righty where they overlap the back wall] 

PISO 

[Greatly relieved] Whew! 

POLORUS 

[Coming back] Just in time! [Suddenly alarmed 
again] But suppose he jumps out and — 
[He drops his voice] 

Piso 
[Resolutely] Who? 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 151 

POLORUS 

[In surprise\ Who? This blamed — 

PISO 

/ didn't see anybody. Did you? 

POLORUS 

[With a relieved winki No. I saw no one. 

PISO 

He must have sneaked in during the day. 

POLORUS 

Maybe the wife Lucia let him in. 

[Cries of "The Emperor!" just outside. With it an 
unexpected babble of women's voices. Piso and 
POLORUS, at this new sound, look at each other 
in sudden astonishment as rufinius enters] 

RUFINIUS 

His Imperial Majesty! 

[rufinius is followed by two centurions. Piso 
drops to one knee and polorus follows suit. 
HELIOGABALUS Stalks in with paula hanging to 
one arm and c^lestis to the other. Behind the 
three, crowded closely, are annia Faustina, 
aquilia severa, and three or four other wives. 
Last of all comes dacia. heliogabalus wears a 
magnificent toga of imperial purple, with gold 
borders very heavily embroidered, and a wreath 
of laurel. He moves to the centre of the stage 



wuhoM a word, and as if scarcely conscious of 
PAULA and CELESTis. A murmur of confused 
speech among the other wives. Obviously, there 
has been an encounter outside. PISO and PO- 
LORUS get to their feet, and move off discreetly 
toward the right, pushing their wheeled table 
ahead of them. Presently they go out. rufin- 
lus takes station at the side of the archway lead- 
ing into the banquet hall, directly before the 
place where SIMON is concealed. The centurions 
go to the extreme right, and stand impassive. 
Throughout this scene, sounds of revelry come 
from the banquet hall] 



HELIOGABALUS 

[Suddenly sltaking off PAULA <md CffiLESTis, and 

swinging 'round to face the other wives, his arms 

folded] The answer is Yes and No! 



PAULA 

[Melodramatically^ What! 

HELIOGABALUS 
Yes to question number one; no to question number 
two. 

THE OTHER WIVES 

[Together] Which is which? ... Do we come 
back? . . . What can he mean? . . . Which ques- 
tion is number one? . . . He's going to put her out! 




Act III] HELIOGABALUS 153 

PAULA 

[Authoritatively] Silence! Let me do the talk- 
ing, [To HEUOGABALUS, bravely but a bit uneasily] 
What do you mean . • . darling? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Simply this, molasses jar. You all come back — 
but not together. 

THE OTHER WIVES 

[In a babble, as before. They don*t quite know 
whether to hail the news, or to protest] Oh, we come 
back! •-. . But what does that mean? ... I don't 
understand it at all . . . Do you mean — ? 

PAULA 

[Sharply] Silence! 

[The babble is cut short instantly. A momentary 
silence, heliogabalus stands with his arms 
folded. The wives look uneasy and a bit fool- 
ish] 

PAULA 

[7*0 HELIOGABALUS, quavcringly] You are not go- 
ing to — ? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Carpenters are at work building a plain double-bed. 
I have ordered that farm taken out and burned. The 
double-bed will suffice until — 

PAULA 

But I thought we were to come back. 



154 HELIOGABALUS [Act III 

HEUOCABALUS 

You do — but you come bade one by <Mie. 

CJELEsns 
But where will the rest of us sleep? 

HEUOCABALUS 

Where you have been sleeping — during the late 
revolution. Sleep wherever you please. If the pal- 
ace isnH big enou^ Fll have barracks built. 

PAULA 

[Maudlinlyl Oh, my poor head! I can't under- 
stand a thing he says! 

HEUOCABALUS 

Let me explain. The old system had its advantages. 
I was used to it and strongly approved it. But the 
older I get, the more I learn. At ninety or a hundred 
I should be genuinely wise. One thing I have learned 
is that the Qiristian system, too, has — 

PAULA 

[Hysterically] He's deserting us for that street- 
woman! 

[The other wives set up a shrill protest of "Ohs"] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Talking them down] The Qiristian system, too, 
has its advantages. It is lonesome, but peaceful. I 
sleep better. The ventilation is better. More air. 
Fewer breathing. 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 155 

PAULA 

I protest against it as immoral! We are your law- 
ful— 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Sardonically] Immoral? Hah, because it's 
pleasant! You, too, have become infected by this 
Qiristianity. 

PAULA 

Oh, what an insult! 

HELIOGABALUS 

But to resume. You take your turns one by one, 
quietly and in order. First, let us say — ^well, first 
one of you. To be selected by me. I have a system 
worked out. Each stays on until — until I feel like 
a change. Then the next. And so on. 

PAULA 

I see it all. It's a scheme to get that Qiristian 
hussy in — ^and then keep us out! 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Darkly, rolling his eye over the group of wives]. 
The Qiristian girl will not be the first. She must take 
her turn. 

CiELESTIS 

See! She remains. What did I tell you? 
[The other wives babble] 

HELIOGABALUS 

If you are my lawful wives, then she is my lawful 



156 HELIOGABALUS [Act III 

urife. I must be just As Pontifex Maximus I am 
the incarnation of justice. 

PAUIA 

I am against justice for Qiristians! 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Humorouslyl Exactly. There is always some 
one that justice doesn't apply to. 

CSLESTIS 

You might take her in, and then keep her a year. 

HEUOGABALUS 

It's theoretically possible, but very improbable. 
No, my inclination to the Christian system has its 
limits. The girl must take her turn. I must suffer, 
say once a year. Where is she, by the way? 

PAULA 

Praying somewhere, I suppose. 

C^LESTIS 

[Maliciouslyl Maybe she has run off with that 
old bed-tick of an evangelist. 

HELIOGABALUS 

I shall ask her to pray for you, Caelestis. 

CiELESTIS 

[Horrified] Oh, oh! She'll put a spell on me! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Never fear. [Wearily] I have tried it. Her 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 157 

spells are nothing. She couldn't even cure my stom- 
ach-ache. • • • And now, off with you. I have im- 
portant business. I am entertaining the Supreme 
Bench. 

PAULA 

[Defi4mtly] It is your duty to turn her out. 

csLEsns 
It is your duty 



ANOTHER WIFE 

It is your duty — 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Irritably] Duty! Duty! Always my duty! 
Well, it is my duty to — 

PAULA 

Do your duty and you'll be happy. 

HEUOGABALUS 

A fallacy, my dill pickle. Duty may make a man 
able to stand a thing, but it never makes him enjoy it. 
Now good-night. 

[He shoos them toward the door, left] 

PAULA 

I object! I protest! 

[The other wives begin to babble, joining her pro-^ 
test] 

HELIOGABALUS 

Enough ! I order you — ^as Emperor ! [ They grow 



158 HELIOGABALUS [Act III 

silent and slink atuay] Disobey, and — [They start 
out, HEUOGABALUS following them Unoard the door\ 
The name of the evening's nominee will reach you in 
due course. 

PAUIA 

[At the door^ I — 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Perempiorily] Guards! 

[PAULA runs out, and the others crowd after her.' 
In the scuffle, one of the wives is pushed to one 
side, and finds herself inside after the door, 
bangs. It is DACIA. heuogabalus, turning 
back Unuard the entrance to the banquet-room, 
notices her. She hasn*t said a word during the 
preceding scene, but has noticeably hung back. 
Now, facing the Emperor, she is suddenly con- 
fused, and turns toward the door in alarm. But 
he halts her] 

HELIOGABALUS 

What ! Little Dacia ! [She nods shyly] I didn't 
notice you. I didn't hear a word from you. 

DACU 

[Ingenuously] I didn't say anything. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Not a word about duty? 

DACU 

No. 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 159 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Elaborately kissing her hand] Thank you. 

DACIA 

I hope you are feeling much better. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Thank you again. If I saw more of you, Dacia, Fd 
soon be well. [A pause] I heard you singing last 
night. It was very sweet of you. 

DACIA 

[Simply] I thought you might like me to do it. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Now thoroughly interested] Like it? I loved it! 
You gave me pleasant dreams. I dreamed that things 
were as — ^as they used to be, and that — 

DACU 

[Snuggling into his arms] Have you missed me? 

HELIOGABALUS 

Enormously! At first I wondered just what it was 
I missed so much, but then I knew. It was my little 
wifey. [He kisses her gently] Now she's never go- 
ing to leave me again. 

DACU 

[With all the art of the cutie, but apparently sim- 
ply] If you want me. 

HELIOGABALUS 

I want you every minute. [With elaborate tender- 



ness] I was so worried about you. How did your 
cold get? Better? You are sure you take care of 
yourself? I wish you would stop wearing those very 
thin stockings. [Feeling of her frock] And this 
dress! It's like a night-gown. 

DACIA 

[Coyly, burying her face on his shoulder] 
a new night-gown. 

HELIOGABAXUS 

When am I to see it? 

DACIA 
You never notice such things, 

HELIOGABALUS 

What nonsense. Didn't I notice the pink one- 
one you worked yourself — all those forget-me-notsa 

DACIA 
That was the first you ever saw. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Sentimentally] I'll never forget it. Ah, those 
days! Those happy, happy days! 

[During all this scene simon has occasionally 
peeped out from behind the hangings, his eyes 
popping as heliogabalus grows more and more 
ardent, rufinius has discreetly turned his back 
and the centurions are far to the right, also with 
their backs toward the centre. All the while 
noisy music and whoops have been coming from 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 161 

the banquet-hall, with occasional bursts of ap- 
plause. Now and then a definite voice may be 
heard — probably old catos's] 

DACU 

You do love me, don't you? 

HEUOGABALUS 

Don't you know it? 

DAOA 

I think so. But how much? 

HEUOGABALUS 

That much. [An enormous kiss. Then — ^heuo- 
GABALUS straightens up, glances at the banquet-room 
entrance, and gives a weary sighl Well, I suppose I 
must go in. It's really important — ^a very serious af- 
fair — ^the first in months. You know why there has 
been none. I made a lamentable error. I hate 
bloodshed, but I really think I'd be justified in — 

[siMON peeps from behind the hangings, his eyes 
popping} 

DACIA 

But I'll see you soon? 

HEUOGABALUS 

I should surely hope so. I nominate you number 
one. And I'll make Paula number two, so there'll be 
no temptation to — 

DACIA 

[Very demurely'] You won't be long? 



162 



HELIOGABALUS [Act III 



HEUOGABALUS 

How could I be long? [Kissing her briefly again] 
And don't forget! [He whispers to her, and, as if 
blushing, she hides her face on his shoulder^ You' 
understand? 



[Whispers] I'll be there. 

HEUOGABALUS 

And now — [Another kiss] Wear that pink one. 
You know. Now 1 must — [A sudden idea] But 
why not simply stay? How idiotic of me not to have 
thought of it! You can sit right beside me as you 
used to do. I'll get away all the sooner. 

DACIA 

But it's a men's party! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Pish! You'd be welcome at any men' 
Just watch how the judiciary gape at you! 



But my frock! 



DACIA 
This old diing! 




HELIOGABALUS 

It's perfect! Those old rats never look at the 
clothes; they look at the girl. [He takes his laurel 
wreath from his head and puts it on dacia's head] 
There! The last touch! 

[dacia is still doubtful and hangs back to steal a 
glance at herself in a pocket-mirror, but Helio- 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 163 

GABALUS takes her arm and they turn toward the 
entrance to the banquet-hall, rufinius claps his 
hands 9 trumpets ring out; the two centurions step 
forward and draw hack the hangings. A scene 
of gaudy splendour is revealed. The banquet- 
hall reaches to the back of the stage, with a floor 
three steps higher than that of the corridor. A 
superb flash of colour. There is a huge horse- 
shoe of a table, very low, and it is surrounded by 
the low couches on which the Romans reclined at 
meals. Around the horse-shoe are grouped the 
guests — senators, generals, ambassadors, judges 
and other magnificoes — chiefly elderly and griz- 
zled men. CAius is to the left, and is quickly 
seen to be far gone in liquor, heliogabalus' 
place is in front and to the right, so that when he 
rises to speak his profile is toward the audience 
in the theatre. In the centre of the horse-shoe is 
a small dancing floor, and exactly in the middle 
of it a tall fountain, with coloured lights playing 
upon it. The walls of the hall are richly dec- 
orated, and various barbaric banners show bril- 
liant patches of colour. All the guests are in 
' white togas, but on the shoulder of every ondi 
there is some coloured badge of rank. The 
musicians are far to the rear and their music is 
heard constantly, save when heliogabalus 
speaks. They play strange, levantine tunes, 
sometimes in the old Greek modes. Translated 



into modern tones, their music sounds as if made 
by two violins, a 'cello, a zither, an oboe and a 
snare-drum. 
As the hangings go back, and heuogabalus, with 
DACIA on his arm, is revealed to the banqueters, 
there is a sudden silence. Then CAius springs to 
his feet and shouts "Vivat Imperator!" and the 
whole assemblage rises. The old boys stand un- 
steadily as he mounts the three steps and moves 
toward his place — -U is evident that they have 
been dining very well. There is no cheer, but 
the chord of C major is sounded loudly by the 
musicians. This cuts off the dance that has been 
in progress. The dancer, half-naked, pauses ir- 
resolutely for a second, and then, full of stage- 
fright, leaps off the dancing floor, plunges 
through the standing guests to the left, and dis- 
appears. The guests all crane their necks to 
dacia] 



CAIUS 
[Turning tipsily as the dancer makes off 
there! 



Hey^ 



heliogabalus 
[Taking his place, with DACU beside him'\ 



Let us 



[The guests settle doum, some gracefully enough, 
but others with much difficulty. They all c 
tinue to steal stares at dacia] 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 165 

CAIUS 

[Rising unsteadily] Majesty, the dancer took to 
the woods. I feel I ought to apologize. 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Geniallyl Maybe something struck her suddenly 
— conscience, or gallstones, or something. 

CAIUS 

Oh, no. I've known that little one for years — 

sound as a gladiator. Maybe — [He winks'] Fd bet- 
ter go and — and — 

[He rises wobblingly] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Cutting in] And fetch her? 

CAIUS 

That's it — and fetch her. 

[He winks elaborately again and wobbles off, stum" 
bling once or twice over his toga] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Rising in his best imperial manner. As he gets 
to his legs the musicians repeat the massive chord of 
C major] Gentlemen, my apologies for my tardiness. 
The fact is, I didn't know until the last minute if my 
health would permit me to join you. I was brought 
here on a litter, attended by two physicians. They 
are out in the ante-chamber at this moment, mixing 
pills. [With the sudden malignancy of the dyspep- 
tic] I shall take, say, 5,000 more pills. Then we'll 



166 



HELIOGABALUS [Act III 



see how far a doctor's neck can stretch — a curious 
scientific experiment— vivisection, so to speak. [Re- 
covering his former manner] But this is no talk for 
a banquet. If I told you my symptoms you would 
fall into faints, with screams of horror. [One of the 
guests struggles to his feet and makes as if to speak^ 
Yes, Senator, I have tried that Armenian lithia water. 
I don't doubt it cured your ringing in the ears, but it 
has only made my stomach-ache worse. No more 
water! I have got down enough water of late to 
float Caius' whole fleet. To the sewers with water! 
What have we here? [He lifts up a goblet and sniffs 
at (>] Aha! Good red Terentum! Gentlemen, I 
pledge you! 

[The whole assemblage rises, goblets in hand. 
Staves elbow in with fresh jars of wine, placing 
them upon the table] 

VARIOUS GUESTS 

Vivat Imperator! Vivat Elegabalus! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Gentlemen, let us all drink to Rome, the one per- 
fect and immortal Empire — the model and despair of 
other states — the mother of justice — the guardian of 
civilization! Rome cannot die! Rome forever! 

GUESTS 

Rome forever! 

[They drink stupendous drafts, some of them c 
ing up quite out of breath 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 167 

[heliogabalus sits dotvn, and offers a sip from his 
goblet to DACIA. As the others tumble into their 
placeSy there is a turmoil to the lefty and CAius' 
voice is heard'\ 

CAIUS 

[In a hoarse voice, without] Oh, come on, dearie! 
Don't be afraid ! 

[The guests snicker] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Rising so that he can see] Bring her in, Caius. 

[ CAIUS comes in with an almost naked dancing-girl. 
She is coal-black and very much abashed. The 
guests whoop and roar as they see her] 

CAIUS 

This is a diflferent one. Majesty. I couldn't find 
the other one. I hunted high and low. [Again he 
winks elaborately] This one is an Egyptian — ^her 
name is Irene. I take a fatherly interest in this one. 

A GUEST 

Dear old papa! 

ANOTHER GUEST 

[Mimicking a baby] Da-da! Da-da! 

HELIOGABALUS 

She seems bashful. 

CAIUS 

Just a little. Ain't used to dancing before ladies. 
[An elaborate and idiotic bow to dacia] She has 



168 HELIOGABALUS [Act III 

her instructions: no rough stu£f. Perhaps her Maj- 
esty — 

HELIOGABALUS 

Let her display her art. This is a diEFerent "Her 
Majesty." 

CAIUS 

[Very drunk] Profound apologies. My error. 
No offence. Majesty, I assure you. My eyes — astig- 
matism — 

HEUOGABALUS 

Now then! 

[The music starts with a crash, and the dancer leaps 
into a wild dance. At first the guests regard her 
stolidly, but in a few seconds some of them begin 
to rise to see her better} 



CAIUS 

[Rising] This is nothing, Majesty. This 
the start. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Very interesting. Has the dance any significance' 
Is it symbolical? 

CAIUS 

I should say it is. If you understand it, it brings 
tears to your eyes. Very affecting, indeed. I'll ex- 
plain it. You observe that sort of flop-flop of the 
arms? Well, that signifies — [The music drowns him 
out. To the musicians, over his shoulder] Not 
loud, professor. Where do you think you are? 



i 

ice? 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 169 

[The music grows soft. The dancing girl now 
launches into a series of amazing wriggles, oc- 
casionally leaping into the air. CAius, very soU 
enrnly and unsteadily, explains as she goes on. 
HELIOGABALUS, while this is in progress, sips his 
wine, and gradually grows very mellow in 
humour. Now and then he laughs and claps his 
hands^ 

CAIUS 

Her dark complexion, gentlemen, signifies death. 
Wash them, and they are almost white. People think 
Egyptians are niggers — ^all a mistake. I knew a girl 
in Memphis — ^her name was Saidee — almost as white 
as anybody. [The girl begins to shed veils} There 
it is, plain enough. The man is dying. Casting off 
this mortal coil. Dying by inches. First his feet, 
then his arms, then his stomach, then his lungs, then 
his — and so on. [The girl squats, and wriggles 
about] Death struggles. Poor fellow doesn't want 
to go. Thinks he is too young. [She leaps into the 
air"] Last gasp. You can almost hear it. [She be- 
gins to whirlll Getting dizzy. Scared. Sends for 
the priest. [The music slackens a bit] Prayers. 
[Louder cmd faster again] Too late. It's all up. 
[A wild leaping about] Throw out the reverend and 
send for the embalmers. [She leaps into the foun- 
tain] The soul takes flight. [5^ is now almost 
naked. The water plays upon her] Nothing left but 
the body. Hardly a stitch on. Have to strip '^m, of 



170 



HELIOGABALUS [Act III 



course, to pickle 'em. Very interesting process. 
They keep for ever. [The girl now launches into her 
final cavortingsl This shows the soul in the Egyptian 
heaven. Very subtle symbolism. Every wriggle 
means something. I remember — 

[During this last speech, LUCIA has quietly slipped 
into the fore-scene, from the door to the right. 
RUFINius, of course, observes her at once, and is 
visibly startled and alarmed. But those in the 
banquet-lmll, at first, do not see her. helio- 
GABALUS and DACIA are ivatching the dancer, and 
chuckling over CAIus' exposition. The guests, 
with veil after veil coming off, see nothing else. 
It is CAIUS whose eyes first take her in. He 
halts, glances swiftly at heuogabalus, and then 
at LUCIA again. But before his eyes are fol- 
lowed by HELIOGABALUS, LUCIA has spoken] 

LUCLV. 

[/n round, resonant tones] For shame! 

[HELIOGABALUS has been lolling with his arm 
around dacia. The words electrify him. He 
leaps to his feet, and stands there for a second a 
if thunderstruck and speechless] 



[Her arms folded, standing firmly, as if defying ^ 
universe to move her] For shame! 

[The music stops and the dancer collapses. CAIUS"" 
grasps the table unsteadily. A dozen other 



ActIII] HELIOGABALUS 171 

guests leap to their feet. There is a dead 51- 
lence^ 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Taking a step forward] Hell! 

LUCIA 

You may well say hell. There is nothing in hell 
itself— 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Conciliatingly, coming down the steps] Now, 
now, my dear. Really, you must — 

LUCIA 

Don't touch me, Beelzebub! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Oh, I say, darling! \He is patently nonplussed. 
He turns Wound to his guests] Gentlemen — [A 
deprecating, apologetic gesture] You will pardon 
me. My stomach, unluckily — 

[He comes down to the corridor floor, and the two 
centurions swiftly and discreetly draw the hang- 
ings. In doing so they accidentally uncover a 
comer of simon, but it is only for an instant, 
and they dorCt notice it. Neither does rufinius, 
who has retired to the right, dacia hns come out 
with HELIOGABALUS, but she slips quietly to the 
left and stands against the wall, silent during the 
ensuing scene] 

LUCIA 

[Oratorically] For less than this the flames con- 



172 HELIOGABALUS [Act III 

sumed Sodom and Gomorrah! That woman was 
naked! 

HEUOGABALUS 

[WetJclyl But she was a coloured woman, my 
dear. Didn't you notice? 

LUCIA. 

This infamy must end! A scarlet woman naked 
before you — ^and a scarlet woman in your arms! 

HEUOGABALUS 

[A sudden change of manner} A what in my 
arms? 

LUOA 

A scarlet woman! 

[It takes a moment for the charge to soak in, but 
when it does heliogabalus 15 completely 
changed. No more conciliation. He is furi- 
ously angry and shows it] 

heliogabalus 
A scarlet woman? That "scarlet woman" is my 
wife! 

LUCIA 

[Still resolutely, but somewhat alarmed by his 
rage] I am your wife. Your one wife, 

HELIOGABALUS 

Are you? Well, that is something to be remedied. 
That is a curable disease. A "scarlet woman"! 
Think of it! 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 173 

LUCIA. 

[Now beginning to realize that she has gone too 
far] You would put me away? 

HEUOGABALUS 

Either you put that crazy Qiristian balderdash 
away, or I put you away. Once and for all time, I 
have got enough of it. I am Emperor here, and I 
must live like an Emperor, not like a slave. This 
praying shakes my nerves; water has given me a ter- 
rible stomach-ache; I have chills at night. 

LUCIA. 

[Rather weakly"] The Word — 

HELIOGABALUS 

Maybe, but not for me! Damn water! Damn the 
Christian style of kissing! Damn going to bed at ten 
o'clock! Damn — 

LUCIA 

[Her hands over her ears] Get thee behind me, 
Satan ! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Satan! So Dacia is a scarlet woman, and I am 
Satan! And I thought I was Emperor of Rome! 
[Wildly, showing that there was wine in his goblet] 
For less than this, I have — 

[His fists clenched, he pauses] 

LUCIA 

You can't harm me. The Lord is with me. 



174 HELIOGABALUS [ActIJ 

HELIOGABALUS 

[This last defiance determines him] Oh, is he? 
Then we'll see whal he'll do for you when the alligators 
begm to sniff you. Guards! 

[As the centurions spring forward, lucia screams^ 

LUCIA 
[In great terror] Would you kill me? 
[But before the centurions can reach her or helio- 

GABALUS c(m reply, simon leaps from behind the 

hangings, his dagger drawn] 



Stop, tyrant! 
[HELIOGABALUS Steps back, startled, and for an j 
staia the centurions hesitate in alarm] 

LUCU. 

Help me, Simon! 

SIMON 

Lay a hand on this maiden and I'll — 

[He flourishes the dagger and makes at HELIOGA- 
BALUS, but by this time the centurions have re- 
covered their heads, and are immediately upon 
him. RUFiNius, from the right, also leaps to the 
rescue, and in two seconds simon is pinned from 
behind and his dagger is on the floor. DACIA, 
during all this, has screamed once or twice, but 
has not moved from her place. Sounds of music ,- 
come from behind the hangmgs, and shouts t 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 175 

laughter — loud enough to show that the harir 
queters are very drunky and do not hear the 
commotion in front] 

HELIOGABALUS 

[To SIMON] So there you are! 

SIMON 

[Almost incoherently] Murderer! You would 
send your lawful wife to the lions! Pagan! 
Heathen! [Rolling his eyes upward] Lord, 
watch over Thy servant! Lord, send Thy light- 
nings to blast this heretic! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Bosh! Save all that Lord business until you 
need it more. It won't be long. [To rufinius] 
Take this man to the circus, and have him chained— 
arm, leg and neck. There will be orders about him 
tomorrow morning. FU want the iron stake and a 
couple of barrels of whale-oil. 

[lucia screams and rushes toward heliogabalus 
supplicatingly, but simon drops on his knees in 
ecstasy. It gradually a>ppears that he welcomes 
death — that he craves martyrdom] 

SIMON 

[His eyes rolling] Lord, I thank Thee! To die 
in Thy name! Lord, I thank Thee for this boon! 

HELIOGABALUS 

[Astonished] What! 



6 HELIOGABALUS [Act 

LUCIA, 
I am to blame, not he. Let me — 



[Still happy} Lord, I thank Thee for this bod 
— this martyrdom! I thank Thee! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Silence! What is the idiot doing? 

LUCIA 
He ia happy that he may die for the Faith. 

HELIOGABALUS 

The Faith? What has the Faith to do with it? 
is to die for an attempt at assault and battery. 

LUCU 
It is all one. 

HELIOGABALUS 
Do you mean to say that murder is a part of Chnfl 
tianity? 

LUCIA 
No, but martyrdom is. 

SIMON 

[To the centurions and rufinius] Brothers, let u 
pray. Let me pray for you. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Never in the world! I have heard enough prayioj 
to last me for ever. [To lucia, still not quite ableU 
comprehend it] So he actually umUs to be btinied« 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 177 

LUCIA. 

[PrecLchilyl He thirsts for paradise. 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Humorously] Solomon* Sy I guess! Well, I'm 
surely not going to accommodate him. [To simon] 
Get up. [To RUFiNros and the centurions] Let 
him go. [To simon] You are reprieved. 

SIMON 

[Blubbering] Cesar, I — 

HEUOGABALUS 

Silence! I say you are reprieved. You are not 
going to get to paradise if / can help it. [To the cen- 
turions] Take him out, give him a good cowhiding, 
and run him out of town. [To simon] If you ever 
come back, ofiF goes your Adam's apple. And I'll 
slice your nose flat with your face. Bear that in 
mind. 

LUCIA 

[Heroically] If he goes, then / go too. 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Overjoyed by the news, he is momentarily speech- 
less; then — ] Oh, surely not! You don't mean to 
say that you — 

LUCIA 

Then /go too! 

HELIOGABALUS 

But that's really too much! [Br cubing up percepti- 



178 HELIOGABALUS [Act III 

bly] It*8 really more than I deserve, fair goose^ 
berry! 

LUCIA 

[Rising to eloquence] I turn my back on Nine- 
veh. Out there in the West — [her arms flung wide 
toward the audience"] — there is my work. There I 
shall preach the Word. Far from these Roman cities 
and the sins of men. There lies the future harvest of 
the Lord. 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Appraising the audience. Somewhat doubtfully] 
Um — ^well — I wish you luck. [Eagerly] But could 
you get ready in time? You see, Simon is leaving at 
once. 

LUCIA 

I go with him. 

HEUOGABALUS 

But your clothes? It will take you some time to 
pack. 

LUCIA 

The Lord's work is not done in fine raiment. As I 
am, so shall I preach the Word. 

HELIOCABALUS 

[ Very eager to get her off] Nobly spoken. If you 
need any money — 

LUCIA 

I want no money. I shall pray for you. 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 179 

HELIOGABALUS 

[In alarm] But surely not here. This is no place 
for prayer. [Indicating the banquet-roont] It*s 
really rather too — er — riotous, isn't it? Pray for me 
after you get started. Pray for me out there — 
[pointing in the direction of the audience] — in the 
West. 

LUCIA 

I shall pray for you every day and every night. 

HELIOGABALUS 

Yes, yes — every night — out there — [again point- 
ing] — in the West. And now I must get back to my 
guests. The centurions will see you oflF. I surely 
wish you every sort of luck. Let me hear from you 
now and then. Let me hear how your enterprise 
comes on. FU send word that you are to be pro- 
tected. A happy journey. 

LUCIA 

Fare you well! May the Lord keep you! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Thanks. Are you sure you don't need more 
clothes? 

LUCIA 

I need no worldly goods. My Faith, the Lord, are 
enough! 

HELIOGABALUS 

So you said. Well, then, good-bye and good luck! 



180 H ELIOGABALUS [Act III 

If you ever get into difficulties, don't hesitate to write 
to me. Simply **The Emperor, Rome," will reach 
me. 

LUCIA 

[Going] The Lord be with you. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Thank you. 

LUCIA 

The Lord forgive you! 

HEUOGABALUS 

Thank you. 

LUCIA 

The Lord bless you! 

HELIOGABALUS 

Thank you ! 

[She goes out slowly y and rufinius and the centur- 
ions follow with SIMON ] 

SIMON 

[At the door] I suffer for the Faith. I — 

HELIOGABALUS 

[To rufinius] Omit the cowhiding. 

[-^5 they go oiUy heliogabalus turns back alone. 
DACIA has been concealed by the opened door at 
the left. HELIOGABALUS, observing simon's dag- 
ger on the floor^ picks it up and looks at it re- 
flectively. He runs his hands along the blade. 
He applies the point to his breast. He tries the 



Act III] HELIOgIbALUS 181 

effect of the cold steel on his throat. Loud music 
from within, and a great crash. Laughter and 
applause^ 

DACIA 

[Stepping forward, somewhat alarmed by his toy- 
ing with the knife] Be careful! 

HELIOCABALUS 

[He gives a start and turns quickly] There you 
3! And I was wondering what had become of you! 



are 



DACIA 

I was here all the while. 

HEUOGABALUS 

Here? 

DACIA 

Over in the comer. [Snuggling close to him] I 
was awfully scared. 

HEUOGABALUS 

• 

[Now grandly brave] Don't let it worry you, 
tender baby. It's the trade risk. If this stomach- 
ache of mine fetches me, or those quacks poison me 
with their pills, I'll be the first Roman Emperor to 
die in bed for two hundred years. [Amorously] 
But we don't want to think of such things, do we? 
It was worth risking my life to get rid of that theolo- 
gian. 

DACIA 

[Coyly] I thought you — liked her. 



182 HELIOGABALUS [Act III 

HEUOGABALUS 

Bah! I work so hard that sometimes my mind 
wanders. Then there is my stomach-ache. I 
thought she could cure it with that Christian magic 
of hers — that praying, and Lording, and so on. 
But it didn't work. 

DACIA 

Poor dear! And now you have to go back to die 
awful banquet. [Yells from wUhin] 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Tenderly] Do you want me to go back? 

DACIA 

I? What have I to do with it? 

HEUOGABALUS 

You have everything to do with it. Do you want 
me to? 

DACIA 

[Half a whisper] No. 

[ There ensues a long kiss. The arm of coincidence 

provides a dreamy tune from the band behind 

the hangings] 

HELIOGABALUS 

Let us cut the banquet! To hell with the banquet! 
What do you say? 

DACIA 

[Like a naughty child] To hell with the banquet! 



Act III] HELIOGABALUS 183 

HEUOGABALUS 

[Half to himself] Imagine that Christian — [tak- 
ing her arm] Come on! [They sneak half-way 
across the stage. His eyes feast upon her. He halts 
a moment] What wonderful hair! 

[They tiptoe off like truants as 



THE CURTAIN FALLS 



THE END 



25 




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